The White Witch Cometh…

February 27th, 2010 § 5

The Morning after the Storm…

The White Witch roared back up the hill last night in her icy chariot. My oh my, is she a beautiful and treacherous queen. She was angry, and she swirled her crystal scarf and heavy cloak in a fit of rage. Behind her, the cold sorceress dragged a wet blanket of snow so thick that even the greatest trees bowed beneath the weight of her power. “Did you think I would leave so soon?”, she hissed and cackled all night into the howling wind. “How dare you flirt with my younger sister…“. I could almost hear her shaking with laughter in the forest. Yes, she has banished my Spring dreams. This is her season after all, and she is not yet ready to hand over her crown. Fierce Winter will take her leave of us when she is good and ready, and she will likely slam the door…

To the south, the oak and ash stand like ghostly skeletons in the morning light…

And to the west, a towering pine bows in submission…

The hillside traced in snow…

Sunlight makes an early morning appearance through the icy fog and mist…

The Japanese Maple as a Jackson Pollock…

The remains of Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’

Broken and battered, the last papery petals cling to Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ in the snow…

Pointy as a wizard’s hat, native hemlock has always been my favorite winter conifer…

Low clouds break to the east…

The glorious, burnt orange leaves of native beech still cling to her snow coated branches…

Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ reminds me of a porcupine, all prickly in the soft snow…

Stewartia pseudocamilla strikes a graceful silhouette against the snow drift in the Secret Garden…

Three Magical Warlocks…

Regal pines stand sentry on the western slope…

The tree lined forest path, draped in fresh white lace…

A young spruce droops beneath the weight of a heavy new coat…

Gorgeous, horizontal lines of beech amid the vertical striped forest…

Grey clouds make for a dramatic backdrop after the storm…

Pale morning light…

The door to the Secret Garden…

The velvety black remains of Physocarpus ‘Diablo’, sparkling in ice crystals…

Top of the snow-covered drive…

The forest at Ferncliff in all the White Witch’s Winter glory, {and 3 feet of snow}

Inspiration: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Article and photographs © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, All Rights Reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Just In Case You Were Wondering…

February 25th, 2010 § 6

Yes, I am still here…

So much for that early spring, eh Michaela? Status report: two feet of snow in the Green Mountains, with an ice storm and a wind advisory, (gusts to 50 mph), winding up right behind. The power has been on and off – mostly off yesterday – for two days. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Thank goodness for Johnny, (that would be my trusty John Deere 4300, with backhoe, shown above with my tired, wet self), long johns, muck boots, fire wood, a well stocked freezer, and two dear, dear men named Ray and Billy.

Hmm, I guess I should tell you a bit about what makes life possible here, (here is on a piece of ledge I call Ferncliff, sitting in a small clearing at 2,000′, in the middle of a forest, in the middle of nowhere). What kind of lunatic lives like that? Hint: you are looking at her. It dawned on me when I loaded this photo that I really don’t post many pictures of myself here, (there are a couple in the pages at left). That’s because I don’t have many photos of me, and that’s because usually I am holding the camera. Would you like to know more of the back story? Maybe you would. You tell me…

The past few days have been… adventure filled. I will write some more about it this weekend when I will be, (hopefully), snuggled up by the fire with Oli, (that would be my yellow lab), and Doctor Goof, (that would be my fat cat). But right now I have pressing things to attend to. I have a stuck plow-truck and a greasy luge-run of a 1,500′ driveway to clear, (and boy that switch-back is a killer, believe me). So, if you don’t hear from me for a little while, it’s likely because the power is out, (I connect to you via satellite), or I am out clearing snow and/or ice.

Thanks for following along. I’ll be back soon…

Michaela

I do get the weather up here…

This is “Mad Max”, my buried car…

Part of the buried entry walk. Hmm, better get to work !

A little wet, and a little tired, but still loving it here…

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The Gothic Gourmet: Black Beauties and Dark Delights of the Potager…

February 21st, 2010 § 4

Pasilla Bajio (the little raisin) – from White Flower Farm

Imagine gleaming, glossy, black peppers, shiny as patent leather shoes. Picture dark red, tell-tale-heart tomatoes and ebony eggplant polished to a satiny patina. Now visualize amethyst hued basil, purple kohlrabi and blue-black cabbage. Intrigued? Welcome to the slightly sinister, and delightfully decadent world of gothic-gourmet gardening. Designing a beautiful and productive potager can take many twists and turns, sometimes leading to shadows in the light of day. And who lurks about this Edward Gorey – inspired vegetable plot? Why black ravens and spiders and warty-toads – oh my. Imagine delicious, black-fruiting tomatoes; vines twisting and twining about a spindly trellis straight from the imagination of Tim Burton. Or how about  a plot of violet hued gourmet potatoes, guarded by a group of cackling black crows? Terrifyingly tempting, wouldn’t you agree? I see my vegetable garden growing into the shadows this year – with strange metal flowers, freakish pots, eerie Victorian bat houses, and fantastical feeders for my feathered friends. Who ever said a garden plot had to be straight-laced and boring? Morticia Addams had other ideas, and so do I…

Yes, it’s quite the eccentric picture – I admit it – but a tasty one too. Richly colored vegetables are all the rage with savvy chefs right now, and there’s a good reason! The produce harvested from dark fruiting plants, such as black peppers and eggplant, lies at the tasty base of some of the most exquisite culinary creations. And the best part of growing these black gems yourself? Gourmet vegetables like ‘All Blue’ potatoes and black ‘Pierce’s Pride’ heirloom tomatoes cost an arm-and-a-leg at the market, but the frugal gardener can produce exotic dinners with dark homegrown veggies for a fraction of the price.

So, even if you aren’t inclined to bring Edward Scissorhands decor into your backyard garden, adding a few black beauties to your potager will certainly add some rich flavor to your dinner plate. Gothic vegetable gardening is a horse of a different color – why not join me for a ride? Take a peek at a few of the magical things dancing through my dark, garden-designing mind…

Crow Garden Sculpture by artist Virginia Wyoming

Victorian Lace Plate by artist Virginia Wyoming

Rust Wire Edging from Terrain

Amethyst Basil – Johnny’s Seeds

Orient Express Eggplant from Johnny’s Seeds

The Tell-Tale Heart? Beautiful ‘Pierce’s Pride’, Black-Red Heirloom Tomato from White Flower Farm

Strangely Beautiful –  Copper Oriole Feeder from Duncraft

Nevermore © 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Shadowy Silhouettes – Bird Fruit Feeders from Duncraft

Purple Ornamental Peppers in the Potager at Ferncliff

Red Rubin Basil from Johnny’s Seeds

‘Black Pearl’ Ornamental Pepper – Johnny’s Seeds

Green Flower Pot from Terrain

Gothic Garden Beauty – Metal Mum from Terrain

Urn Planter from White Flower Farm

Toad Stool Garden Ornament from Terrain

‘Kolibri’ kohlrabi from Johnny’s Seeds

Victorian Bat House from Duncraft

Bat Guano Fertilizer from Down To Earth

Bat Cottage from Duncraft

‘Purple Beauty’ Pepper from White Flower Farm

Mustard Greens from Johnny’s Seeds

Royal Burgundy Round Bush Beans from Johnny’s Seeds

Rusted Iron Allium Stem from Terrain

Toad House from Duncraft

Metal Agapanthus Stem from Terrain

 

Bull’s Blood Beets from Johnny’s Seeds

‘Sweet Chocolate’ Peppers from Johnny’s Seeds

‘Black Plum’ Heirloom Tomatoes from White Flower Farm

Rust Obelisk from Terrain

‘Holy Moly Peppers’ from White Flower Farm

Bone Meal Fertilizer from Down To Earth

 

‘Black from Tula’ Heirloom Tomatoes from White Flower Farm

‘All Blue’ Gourmet Potatoes from White Flower Farm

Wire Basket from Terrain

Blood Meal Fertilizer from Down To Earth

Rosenblum decorative pot from Terrain

The Gothic Potager in Winter – Dark Cabbage in Ice at Ferncliff

Dark Gardening Inspiration from my gothic library collection: Edward Gorey’s “Evil Garden” and “Gilded Bat”……  Amphigorey Too (Perigee) – Edward Gorey

And the shadowy muse-conjuring tales of Amy Stewart’s – Wicked Plants

Copper Bean Trellis Encased in Ice – Ferncliff Potager in Winter

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands, image © 20th Century Fox

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams,The Original Addams Family, image © ABC

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Article and Photographs, (with noted exceptions: linked object photos via Terrain, White Flower Farm and Johnny’s Seeds, Lace plate photo: Virginia Wyoming), copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Apple Pancake Tart for Breakfast: The Simple Pleasures of Country Living…

February 19th, 2010 Comments Off

Apple Pancake Tart for Breakfast, Brunch or Dessert. Platter by Aletha Soule

I adore cities: San Francisco; New Orleans; New York; Florence; Munich – in that order. I love urban energy, art, culture, food and people. But as much as I enjoy traveling, I am a homebody at heart. After a day spent struggling through city traffic yesterday, I was more than ready to head home. So this weekend I am planning to enjoy the leisurely pace of my country life, complete with a slow, decadent brunch.

I have mentioned Marion Cunningham‘s delightful Breakfast Book here before, and I am sure I will mention it again. When it comes to creating comfort food, it’s really hard to beat the wisdom of Marion Cunningham. I found Marion’s recipe for apple pancakes one morning a few years back when I had a bag of apples and little else in my kitchen. Although it is categorized under pancakes, I file this delicious cast iron skillet creation somewhere between tart and souffle. But no matter what you call it, it is simply scrumptious, and easy-peasy to make.

Yes, the Big Apple is fun for a day or two, but after getting my fill, I am more than content with a few little apples served warm in an Apple Pancake Tart here on my country hilltop. There’s no place like home…

Marion Cunningham’s Apple Pancake Tart

From the Breakfast Book , (with tasty little adaptations)

Ingredients:

6     Tablespoons Butter

2     Large, tart apples, (peeled, cored and sliced)

3     Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1/4  teaspoon cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon vanilla

1/8  teaspoon nutmeg

5     Tablespoons confectioners sugar (plus or minus, to taste)

3     Eggs at room temperature

1/4  teaspoon salt

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, mix apples with lemon juice. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla and toss to mix well.

In a 10 inch skillet, melt butter until just liquified. Remove from heat and reserve 2 Tbs of butter in a separate bowl. Return skillet to stove and bring the heat to medium. Add the apple mixture and cook, (stirring), about 5 minutes. Apples should  retain shape but be cooked through and tender. Test with a fork. Remove from heat and spread them into a uniform layer at the bottom of the pan. Set pan aside.

Place milk, eggs, four salt and 2 tablespoons of reserved butter in a food processor or blender. Combine until smooth. Pour the mixture atop the layer of apples in the skillet.

Carefully place the skillet in the stove and bake for 20 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown.

Wait a few minutes for pan to cool, then flip upside down on a large platter to expose the apple top. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm…

Mmmmm…

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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Feathering the Nest: Providing for Birds This Spring in the Garden…

February 15th, 2010 Comments Off

My dad’s homemade wren and bluebird houses, cleaned, ready and waiting for placement…

Well, I have pulled out my bird houses, but as you can see, they won’t be filled with tenants anytime soon. It’s snowing here in the Green Mountains today. Nothing major, thank goodness, but we may be getting some accumulating snow tomorrow, (sigh). Still, now is a good time to start thinking about bird houses and their placement in the landscape. Birds are of course essential in every backyard eden. Beyond their obvious beauty and the poetry of their song, birds are the ultimate in organic insect control. Consider that a single insectivorous, (bug eating), bird can consume more than 100 bugs per day. If that isn’t reason enough to set out bird houses, feeders and bird baths, I don’t know what is!

Beautiful functionality: image from Terrain

The trouble is, many bird houses and feeders are unattractive. I am always on the lookout for beautiful, functional garden objects, both for my own garden and for my client’s landscapes. As a garden designer, I can be pretty critical. Simple and natural objects always looks best to my eye. Below I have linked some beautiful and useful bird houses available online from Duncraft and Terrain. There are some others listed in the Potting Shed page, and in my previous post on birds. You can also build your own houses from kits. For awhile, my dad was on a real bird house manufacturing kick. He started with a simple kit, like the ones linked below from Duncraft, and then he graduated to patterns, and eventually he developed some of his own designs. The bird houses above, (top photo), and probably fifty others, were created by my father over the course of a single winter. He’s moved on to other projects now, (much to my mother’s delight, I am sure), but I still love and use his handcrafted bird havens and feeders. If you are even the least bit crafty, bird houses are very easy to build from kits and patterns, (more on this subject will be coming soon).

Lovely green moss bird house from Terrain

I like to encourage bird house and feeder construction as a winter project for families with children. Respect for the natural world is usually something we learn from our parents or other important adults in our lives. If you have youngsters in your circle, lead them to The Audubon Society via their wonderful website, and encourage their interest in identifying birds through quality guidebooks. There are more useful bird-centric links in the blogroll at right. Now is a good time to clean and look over old birdhouses for safety and disease prevention. Before you get busy with yard work, think about bird house placement and get things up and ready before the new rush of tenants arrive. I am really looking forward to the return of songbirds. Aren’t you? My favorite is Vermont’s state bird, the hermit thrush. What birds visit your garden in summer? Do you put up birdhouses?

Natural Twig Bird House, $38, Available at:  Terrain

Vintage-Inspired Bird Notebook : $12 from Terrain

Ceramic Gourd Bird House, $32.95, Available at: Terrain

Natural and stylish: Duncraft’s Pretty Thatched Roof Nesting Pocket – $7.95

Simple, unobtrusive and classic: Duncraft’s Basic Bird Houses from $12.95

Build your own bird houses with easy kits (a great winter project with kids):  Bird House Kits in solid wood for only $15.95 from Duncraft

A functional and beautiful garden ornament, (great for wedding/housewarming):  Duncraft’s Beautiful Copper Roofed Songbird House – $99.95

More beautiful and functional houses, havens, feeders and more are available online at: Duncraft Bird Houses

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Top photo © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All other images are the property of the linked websites, as noted. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Please do not take images or text excerpts without obtaining permission via ‘contact’ link at right. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships, stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Don’t Break My Heart: A Love Story Written in Old Fashioned Flowers…

February 13th, 2010 § 3

Sweet Peas, from Johnny’s Seeds

One fine day in early spring, a ravishing young lady named Poppy was out tending her flowers when, without warning, a smooth-talking fella named Sweet William appeared at the garden gate. Poppy was immediately smitten, and she leaned toward him as he drew nearer the fence. He was charming and handsome, and as he approached, Poppy detected an old-spicy scent, reminiscent of clove. Oh my – but he was flirtatious – and before Poppy knew what was happening, Cupid’s Dart struck her heart. Both of their cheeks flushed; hers crimson red and his Cupid Pink. Sweet Peas they soon were…

Crimson Poppies, from Renee’s Garden Seeds

Sweet William Seed, from Botanical Interests Seeds

Cupid’s Dart, from Botanical Interests Seeds

Cupid Pink Sweet Pea, from Botanical Interests Seeds

Love-in-a-Mist filled the air, and Poppy began to swoon. Before she knew quite what she was doing, she whispered Kiss-me-over-the-Garden-Gate into her lover’s ear. Sweet William was more than willing, and he smiled mischeviously , tossing his Bachelor Buttons to the ground….

Love-in-a-Mist, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Blue Boy, Bachelor Buttons, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

And so Poppy and Sweet William spent many hot summer days, intertwined in the Exotic Love Vine, with the birds and the bees. It was a heady affair, filled with dew-kissing and silky petals. They swore their summer love would never end. Poppy dropped her guard, and soon she confessed to Sweet William that she was dreaming of White Bishop’s Lace and Cathedral Bells…

Exotic Love Vine, from Renee’s Garden Seeds

White Bishop’s Lace, from Renee’s Garden Seeds

Cathedral Bells, from Renee’s Garden Seeds

But as some summer love stories go, autumn neared, and Sweet William began to fade away. (Well, OK, it’s also possible that he just wasn’t that into her, and that maybe he did run off with a certain Painted Lady – but I won’t tell if you won’t).

“Oh, my Sweet William, I know you must go”, Poppy sniffed. “But please, please promise to Forget-Me-Not“. And as the bright color faded from her cheeks, Sweet William disappeared. Poppy grew pale, and shadows appeared on the horizon. Poor Poppy - sometimes things don’t work out quite the way we plan, and our Love-Lies-Bleeding on the ground…

Painted Lady, from Renee’s Garden Seeds

Forget-Me-Not, from Johnny’s Seeds

Love-Lies-Bleeding, from Johnny’s Seeds

The months of late fall soon arrived, with Poppy all alone in the withering garden. But by the holidays, Poppy realized she wouldn’t be alone for long. Come spring there was a new arrival in the garden, and Poppy found, much to her great joy, that the warmth of her delicate new Baby’s Breath made up for her heartbreak all around…

Baby’s Breath, from Baker Creek Seeds

HAPPY  VALENTINE’S  DAY    XO    MICHAELA

** All names in this story have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent** ***Please spread your seed responsibly***

Article copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All images here come via the respective links. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Go a Little Less Green for the Environment: Rethink Your Lawn…

February 13th, 2010 Comments Off

The Front Wildflower Walk in my Garden in June…

Lush, wide, green and rolling; in America we love our lawns. We like to sprawl out on the grass for a picnic, gather on the neighbor’s lawn for a game of touch football , and set up our folding chairs and tiki-torches in the backyard green for summer barbeques. I like doing these things too, and I have a small lawn of my own in Vermont. But it’s important to remember that lawns, from and environmental perspective, provide little support for the ecosystem. In fact, the tremendous amount of water, fossil fuel, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used to maintain most suburban lawns makes our green-fixation downright irresponsible. And although green areas do reduce heat in cities, tightly cropped lawns do little to create habitat and provide food for birds, bees and the many other creatures sharing our world…

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’, attracts a buzzing dinner guest…

 

So, how do we balance our desire for outdoor recreational spaces with environmentally friendly landscaping? When I design gardens for suburban homeowners, I like to suggest a compromise: keep some lawn in the backyard for play-space if it is truly used, and devote the front yard to nature. Usually, the front yard in an urban environment is no more than a strip of earth between the front door and the sidewalk or road. This part of the property is often dry and dusty, and it is rarely used for recreation. Sometimes the area between the house and street is steep and difficult, or even dangerous to mow. In many neighborhoods, roadside turf grass turns brown and unattractive by midsummer, (if it ever looks good at all). There are far more appropriate plants for such spaces; plants that will provide food and habitat for wildlife. In may areas, simply replacing grass with clover or another flowering ground cover is an excellent choice. For the more adventurous, a front garden filled with a mixed selection of native plants can be both beautiful and rewarding. Although there will be initial expenses and work involved, replacing front yard turf grass with more viable plantings can eventually save money and make a home more appealing and marketable as well as ecologically friendly.

For experienced gardeners, alternatives to turf grass will immediately spring to mind, but for novices the sea of choices and garden plan decisions can often seem overwhelming. If you are at a loss for ideas, Liz Primeau’s Front Yard Gardens is a great place to look for inspiration. This lovely paperback book is filled with hundreds of photographs of front yard garden designs, taken in a wide variety of climates. But more important, Primeau is quite practical, her book includes detailed plant lists and step-by-step plans to suit all climates, tastes and budgets. Usually I advise simple design plans and lower maintenance, native plants for new gardeners. Of course, what is considered a native plant will vary tremendously from one place to another, and this is where a bit of research comes in handy. It’s important that your garden suit your location. Perhaps one of your neighbors has a successful front yard garden. What plants grow well for them?  Most gardeners love to talk about plants and they tend to be very generous with advice. Also keep in mind that many communities have gardening clubs and plant swaps groups, and they usually welcome newcomers with a wealth of tips and information – sometimes even perennial divisions !  A small, neighborhood garden center is also a fantastic place to go for advice. Ask experienced, local nursery staff for some native plant recommendations. Be sure to mention that you would like to grow plants with open flowers and extended bloom periods to attract bees, butterflies and birds to your yard. If you are new to gardening, remember to start with a modest plan, and expand your garden as you develop confidence and success…

 

Why mow on a dangerous slope ? When terraced with natural stone, this ‘problem area’ in my garden became a lush, mixed border filled with shrubs, ground covers and perennials, blooming from early spring to late autumn…

Purchase Liz Primeau’s Front Yard Gardens( 2003 ed.): from Barnes and Noble

Purchase Liz Primeau’s Front Yard Gardens (new 2010 ed.): from Amazon

 

An excellent choice for beginners to more advanced gardeners, mixed daylily gardens cover ground, (even those tough to maintain slopes), and bloom from early summer through frost. Expand the early spring bloom time by adding bulbs in the fall. This beautiful daylily combination in my front garden is from White Flower Farm

Hosta are a good choice for new gardeners with shady outdoor spaces. Hosta produce white to lavender blossoms, providing pollen for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, and cool summer shade for other living creatures. Early blooming bulbs can be planted between hosta in autumn, to extend a landscape’s bloom period. The image above is from White Flower Farm

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This article was originally written by Michaela (TGE), for The Honeybee Conservancy Blog as part of a volunteer, collaborative effort. Please visit the HBC site to learn more about this important cause, and how you can do more to help support and protect earth’s pollinators.

Article and photographs, (with noted exceptions), © 2010, All Rights Reserved : Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Please do not use anything on this site without permission

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A Heart of Darkness…

February 12th, 2010 § 5

Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’, available online at, (and image via):  White Flower Farm

Some gardeners adore bright colors, and other plant collectors crave pastels. There are those who prefer dramatic plants painted silver and gold and a few indecisive types who seek out green tonal shifts and mottled white variegation. These hues are all quite lovely, and they occasionally catch my eye, but I fully admit that I have more shadowy desires. The truth is that deep within me, hidden from the light of day, beats a heart of pure darkness – I confess that I have a passion for black plants. Rich, dark purple and velvety red; bitter chocolate and silky maroon; ruby wine and exotic ebony: these are the colors I covet. And wouldn’t you agree that on a hot summer day, it’s easy to be seduced by a mysterious garden filled with shadows?

Cryptotaenia japonica atropurpurea backs up Athyrium niponicum var. pictum in my Secret Garden…

I love the cool, quiet of my shady, Secret Garden - but even in full sun, I like to paint shadows with dark foliage and black plants. While stunning on their own, when used in artful combination, these raven-hued beauties of the plant world can make the other flowers and foliage in a garden truly sing. Beside maroon and deep purple, sky blue blossoms sparkle, and when paired with orange and yellow, wine toned foliage is a bold and dramatic choice. Variegated plants, as well as the dusty, marbled whites and soft silver tones, all appear more striking when positioned beside darker colors. Imagine ghostly white ferns floating in a sea of dark foliage, or icy silver-tipped ivy winding about the base of black snake root, (Cimicifugia/Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’). Dark beauty shyly beckons in the shade…

Streptocarpus ‘Black Panther’, seduces from the shadows of my garden on a hot day..

As for the dark blossoms – oh my, but how I’ve fallen; hopelessly deep, and madly in love, with all of their seductive charms. Ruby red, tipping toward blackness, the deep colored dahlias delight me, and the ink-stained petals of iris can drive me truly wild. But pair the velvety allure of maroon roses with a subtle, spicy fragrance, and I will begin to truly swoon. Yes, I know it is an obsession – but you must know my passion for plants by now. I simply can not help it. In fact , as some of you may recall, I have revealed my personal weakness for dark flowers, when I wrote about the mysterious Black Panther Streptocarpus last summer, (pictured above). So, come along with me, won’t you ? Let’s wander away on a tour of the dark-blossoming underworld. Others may only be charmed by bold birds-of-paradise or delicate little, fluttering flowers. As for me, I will always prefer the slightly sinister beauties, like the dark temptress Odile, a shadow drifting silently across Swan Lake

Ipomoea ‘Sweet Heart Purple’,(image via): White Flower Farm

Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’, available online at, (and image via):White Flower Farm

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black magic’, (image/avail. via): White Flower Farm

Heuchera ‘Obsidian’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Angelica gigas, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Sambucus ‘Black Lace’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita bright red’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Begonia Rex ‘Fireworks’, available online at, (and image via): White Flower Farm

Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’, available online at (and photo via): White Flower Farm

Iris chrysographes, available online at (and image via): Wayside Gardens

Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’ (Black Mondo Grass), available online at: (and image via) Wayside Gardens

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Odile, the black swan, as portrayed by Julie Kent. Photo by Roy Rounds via Thought Patterns.

For further exploring the shadowy side of your gardening personality, I recommend both of these dark, delicious titles…

Karen Platt’s Black Magic and Purple Passion

Paul Bonine’s Black Plants

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Article and photographs (except where noted and linked to external websites and products) are copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved.

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent.

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Luminous Allure of Bill Dwight’s Flowers…

February 9th, 2010 § 1

The delicate silk of a white tulip, luminous petals unfolding in morning light; freesia caught in a glowing rouge blush; the timeless, feminine allure of flowers, all beautifully captured here by artist Bill Dwight. Intoxicatingly fragrant and sensual to the touch, flowers can change a mood, stir a memory, calm the senses. The undeniable, transformative power of the blossom is revealed on a cold midwinter’s day. Thank you Bill Dwight, for a glorious prelude to spring…

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Photographs © 2010 Bill Dwight – All Rights Reserved

For further information about Bill’s photography, please visit the artist’s Facebook page: Bill Dwight

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All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Thank you.

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Create A Glowing Garden in Any Season: Handmade Tin Luminarias…

February 7th, 2010 § 2

Tin Luminarias Glowing on the Winter Garden Path

A few years ago, I attended a beautiful winter party at a friend’s house. She took the time to make the night special, and I will always remember the warmth and glow of her house, lit from within by hundreds of candles, as I arrived on that cold evening. It was breathtaking.

I also like to surprise the people I care about with visual treats. Creating a memorable occasion needn’t be expensive or labor intensive, but it does require a bit of planning. When I have a group of friends over for dinner, or even for a more intimate tete-a-tete, I like to set the mood by illuminating the garden walkway as well as the house. In summer, when winds are lighter, it’s easy to simply set out votives or pillar candles for a pretty glow. But in autumn and winter, the wind easily extinguishes candles unless they are protected. Sometimes I will make ice-lanterns or rolled paper bags with sand to create traditional luminarias. But I am always on the lookout for something new.

While cleaning my basement last month, I found a stack of aluminum flashing leftover from the construction of my studio. I love playing around with sheet metal of all kinds, so I brought the stack upstairs and waited for inspiration to strike. Last week, while having dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, I noticed some pretty punched-tin stars hanging from the rafters. They gave me the idea for these easy-to-make tin luminarias. I put together 5 of them in less than an hour, (see directions below), and I think I will make an entire box to decorate the front walkway for my next party. Now I just need to invent an occasion and hope for clear weather! Pushed into the snow or gravel along a path, I think the lanterns are beautiful – glowing and sparkling like a starry sky…

Trio of Tin Luminarias ⓒ Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

Materials list:

Aluminum flashing in 5″ x 7″ strips or a long roll, (available in hardware stores)

Galvanized steel wire (I used 24 gauge)

An awl, hole punch or another sharp, pointed object

Hammer

Scrap wood for work surface

Votive candles

Directions:(click to enlarge any photo)

Gather materials and select two pieces of aluminum flashing, (or one long piece). Punch holes evenly along the sides as shown, (I doubled up pieces for matching, evenly spaced holes. Then, randomly punch holes on the surface, (or in patterns or shapes). Stitch together two pieces of aluminum with steel wire as shown, (or if you are using a single cut piece from a roll, then make a tube shape and stitch together the sides). Roll the tube to connect the ends and stitch together the other side. After you have finished, twist the ends in a loop and tuck to the sides. Set outdoors, pushing the bottom into the soil, gravel or snow,  and fill with lit votive candles…

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Photo ⓒ Michaela Medina – thegardenerseden.com

Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.

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Think Spring: It’s Time to Start Sowing Early Kitchen Garden Seeds …

February 5th, 2010 § 1

The kitchen garden at Ferncliff, late May 2009 …

It’s always exciting when the first boxes of vegetable, herb and flower seed begin to arrive in the mail. I know, I know. I am a bit like a little kid – but I have to check the mail every day to see if there is something waiting for me in that big metal box at the foot of the hill. The Johnny’s package from Maine always arrives first, then Botanical Interests from Colorado, and then Renee’s Garden Seeds way out in California, (hello California, I miss you!).  The first thing I do is open the box and just pour over all the pretty envelopes. I have to get that part out of my system. Then I begin grouping the seeds in order of sowing. Since I will start the onions, leeks and herbs in a week or so, those will be bundled together in the front. The cabbage, broccoli and other cold-hardy crops will be started in waves. Some will go into the hoop houses and some will be started indoors this year beneath grow lights. Oh, so much potential. I can’t wait.

First seed packets arriving …

There will be much to do and talk about in the coming weeks. For now, I just want to go over some very basic information for new gardeners, especially for those starting their own seeds for the first time. Many seed companies also have tutorials on their sites, and I recommend you visit those pages as well. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Ed Smith is an excellent resource for new gardeners, and a good reference book for more experienced green-thumbs…

Photo © Tim Geiss

1. Sort through your seeds: Check the back of the packets for planting information. Some seeds are best started indoors, (such as onions, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, etc), especially in cold climates, and some seeds are best direct-sown, (such as peas, beets, carrots, radish, etc). If you have left over seed from last fall, you can use those seed this spring. I have left over spinach and broccoli raab to use before I open the new packs later this year. Check expiration dates. You can and should try older seeds if you have them, but be aware that if your seeds haven’t been stored properly, (cool, dry, dark location), you may not have as much success with germination.

2. Gather free-draining containers and trays: You can buy starter cells, peat-pots or plastic cells online or at your local garden center if you like, but this isn’t absolutely necessary. Seeds can be started in empty milk and egg cartons, sliced up paper towel and toilet paper rolls, homemade newspaper pots, (more on this later), and recycled, (sterilized), six packs from garden centers. Starting seed need not be expensive or difficult. The most important thing is good drainage, so be sure to poke holes in whatever ‘pots’ you create from recycled materials. I absolutely encourage you to experiment with containers! I like to set my free draining pots in plastic or metal trays to catch water and provide moisture.

3. Purchase good quality, organic seed starting mix: It’s possible to make your own mix, of course, but if you are just starting out, I am going to suggest that you buy a good quality, well-drained  seed starting medium from a local garden center. This isn’t expensive, and starter soil is very important. Do not use regular potting soil, as it is too heavy, (doesn’t drain well), and will reduce your germination and success rate.

4. Time your starting: Look at the last frost date for your area and count the weeks back. If you live in New England, you will be starting things like onions, leeks and cabbage this month. If you live in a slightly warmer climate, you may be starting tomatoes and peppers this month. I like to use the Farmer’s Almanac online as a resource for last-frost date.

5. Get started with planting:  Begin by filling your cells with moist starter mix. I like to moisten the mix first and then put it into the starter pots. This way, I won’t be washing the delicate seeds out when I add water. Read the seed packet to get the proper planting depth, especially if this is your first time starting seeds. I like to plant 2-3 seeds per cell, filling all the cells in my flats, and then I cover them, (but don’t smother, loosely cover above the soil), with clear plastic. You needn’t purchase special covers to do this, but it can be helpful. In cold, drafty homes a heating pad is very helpful to maintain the 70 degree temperature recommended for most seed germination.  Some seeds will germinate in a matter of days, and some will take weeks, (again, check the back of your packets). Be sure to keep those cells moist, but not soggy.

6. Provide light: Once you see seeds germinating, you want to immediately place the trays beneath fluorescent/full-spectrum light bulbs. The light will need to be within a couple of inches of the seedlings, or the seedlings will grow long and spindly as they reach for the light. The grow-lights should be raised as the plants grow, keeping the light source very close. Many gardeners purchase special grow lights, but once again, this isn’t necessary. I know very successful home gardeners using shop lights or other home-built contraptions, but please be safe. Lights can be left on 24 hours, and because many fires start electrically, I encourage you to use caution.

7. Water: Again, keep the seedlings moist, but not soggy. By placing your seed containers in trays, as I mentioned above, you can water from the bottom by adding water to the tray, reducing the risk of water-logging and wash-outs as the seedlings grow.

8. Fertilize: When seedlings develop their first real leaves, as opposed to the little, itty bitty leaves you see when the plants emerge from the soil, you can begin giving the seedlings an organic starter fertilizer or weak fish-emulsion mix. Look for either of these products in a local garden center.

9. Provide air circulation: Two things will be necessary as plants grow. First, thin your seedlings. Look for the strongest seedling in each cell and then with clean, sharp scissors, cut off the one or two other seedlings right down to the soil line. Be careful, but be ruthless! This thinning will reduce competition and improve air-flow. And speaking of airflow, it may help to have a small fan nearby and run this for at least a few hours every day. Air circulation is very important for reducing the spread of fungus.

Whew. Well, that ought to get you started! I will continue with tips for transplanting and hardening off in another week or so. But for now… enjoy looking over and reading those beautiful packets and all the promise they hold. Get familiar with your seeds – it will make you a better gardener !

Some of my favorites from last fall: Renee’s Garden Seeds – Long Standing Spinach and Broccoli Raab…

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All content in this article, (with noted exceptions), is © 2010 The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved.

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20% off White Flower Farm Gift Certificates Over $50 for Valentine’s Day! Use Code AS309. Offer valid 1/30/10 to 2/14/10
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Valentine’s Day Fun with Flowers: Introducing The Wild Hibiscus Royale…

February 3rd, 2010 § 3

I’m a big fan of Valentine’s Day. This probably comes as no surprise. Of course I love any celebration that involves flowers, food and drink. But there is something special about a holiday that exists just to say ‘I love you’. And although we tend to think of romance and candlelit dinners on Valentine’s Day, it’s also a nice time to tell your friends that you love them too. Remember way back when you made valentines for all your classmates? Or maybe you even baked special cookies and gave them away for a smile? Well you can still do that now if you want to, you know. Valentines Day is just plain fun.

And speaking of fun, awhile back my friend Mel gave me a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers as a gift. She’s so thoughtful, isn’t she?  Deep red, gorgeous, edible, floating flowers… now doesn’t that sound exactly like something I would like? Of course. And although these lovely little hibiscus flowers and their syrup can be used in myriad ways, (as a garnish, in dessert dishes or drinks), Mel knew that I would have to pop one in a glass of champagne, creating what is known as a Wild Hibiscus Royale. But the blossoms and their sweet nectar also play a starring role in several other cocktails, including the Hibiscus Mojito, Sugar Daddy, Hi-Bellini, Hibiscus Daiquiri, and the soon-to-be tried Adam & Eve Martini.

I’d been saving my jar of hibiscus for a special occasion, but over the weekend I realized that if these floating flowers are as good as they look, then I must let you know about them in time for Valentine’s Day. I mean, what kind of person would I be if I kept this all to myself ? So here you have the visual evidence – gorgeous. And when the sweet hibiscus flowers and syrup are combined with a hint of mint and a whiff of rosewater, they blend perfectly with fizzy, dry brut champagne. But I must warn you, whatever you do, don’t put this syrup in a sweet bubbly, because that would ruin it – stick to a dry sparkling wine or prosecco.

Sure, you could buy regular old flowers. But why not float an exotic blossom in a sparkling glass of bubbles? I think ruby red Hibiscus Flowers make the perfect Valentine’s drink. Have a little fun. You know that I want you to…

Wild Hibiscus Royale


One Wild Hibiscus Flower* per glass

1/4 oz natural rose water, (available in most grocery spice aisles)

2/3 oz Wild Hibiscus Flower* syrup

2     sprigs fresh mint per glass, (one to muddle, one for garnish)

Brut champagne, dry sparkling wine or prosecco

In a champagne flute, muddle one sprig of mint to release oils. Remove crushed leaves from the glass. Add rosewater and place one Wild Hibiscus flower at the bottom of glass, carefully standing upright. Slowly pour champagne into the glass, filling 2/3 of the glass. Top with Wild Hibiscus syrup and a sprig of fresh mint.

*Wild Hibiscus Flowers ($10 for an 8.8 0z jar at Amazon.com), are available online, or through specialty retailers. Wild Hibiscus company is based in Australia and the hibiscus are hand picked on sustainable farms. Each 8.8 oz jar contains approximately 11 hibiscus flowers, and they may be used in a wide variety of cocktails, non-alcholic drinks and desserts. You can also float the flowers in glasses of sparkling water, ginger ale or whatever fizzy beverage strikes your fancy, for a non-alcoholic version of the Wild Hibiscus Royale.

Muddle mint leaves in a champagne flute to release oils, then remove the crushed leaves…

Add 1/4 ounce of rose flower water…

Add one flower from a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup. Stand the flower upright at the bottom of the flute, and fill the glass 2/3 full with dry champagne, sparkling wine or prosecco. Top with 2/3 ounce of flower syrup and a sprig of fresh mint.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Cheers XOXO – Michaela

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Looking for something a little less sweet? Floral tea also makes a lovely Valentine surprise. It’s pretty to watch the dried flowers unfold in the glass teapot and it’s a really easy way to brighten a friend’s day…

Primula Flowering Tea Set with Glass Pot

And then there is the White Flower Farm gift certificate. I always prefer the gift of flowers with roots attached…

20% off White Flower Farm Gift Certificates Over $50 for Valentine’s Day! Use Code AS309. Offer valid 1/30/10 to 2/14/10
Click Here!

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not republish or post photographs or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Well that’s nice! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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Taking Better Photos of Your Garden: Guest Post by Ted Dillard…

February 1st, 2010 § 4

Photo ⓒ Ted Dillard

Of all the questions and comments I receive via this blog, email and through this site’s Facebook Page, the most common by far are related to photography. I am a new, amateur photographer, (that is a nice way of saying that I have no idea of what I am doing), and when I have questions about how to take better photographs or what equipment to buy, or how to use it, I usually consult with my professional photographer friends. And, I am very lucky, because one of my dearest friends just so happens to be the brilliant photographer Ted Dillard. Accomplished artist, teacher, and author, Ted is also remarkably generous with his time and talents.

Taking a good photograph is not only a pure pleasure, but it is also a valuable skill – and it needn’t be difficult. So, here to provide us with a few expert tips is the multi-talented Ted Dillard. For further reading, I highly recommend Ted’s series of books for the digital photographer.

Thank you Ted Dillard !

Ted’s Top Ten Twelve Tips for better (Garden!) Photographs

It’s funny, for all the times I’ve been asked what the best camera is to buy, I think I can count on one hand the times someone as asked, “How can I take better pictures?”  For one thing, it’s not a simple answer, it depends so much on so many intangible things.  The funny thing is, though, the impact of the photographs ultimately has very little to do with the choice of camera.

That said, there are some pretty universal tips that almost any photographer should keep in mind, and even the most experienced of us occasionally overlook.  Whether you’re taking photographs of your kids, your vacation, or your cherished gardens, or a commercial assignment, these are some basic suggestions you should always keep in mind.  After we cover the basics, I’ve added a few especially for the gardeners.

 

1. It takes light to make a photograph.

Back in the days of film, we were always trying to “push” the ISO- overdeveloping the film to compensate for underexposing it.  It dawned on me one day that you do, in fact, have to have some light hit the film, or the sensor, to make a photograph.  Photograph means, from the Latin, “picture from light” after all…

Add light, wait for light, turn the lights on, whatever you need to do to avoid shooting in the dark.  Even with cameras rated at ISO 3200+, you still need some light to make the photograph.  Without going into the technical details of it, even new cameras with astronomical ISO settings are essentially starting with very little information, or image data, and stretching it out, making “holes” as they go. Think “pizza dough” here.

2. Hold the camera steady.

You can have the best optics ever made, but if the camera is moving then the image is moving on the sensor, even just a little bit.  Get a good tripod, and by that I mean a good BIG tripod.  Tripods need mass to fight vibration and movement, if your tripod is too light and too small it’s just going to blow in the wind.  Literally.  The closer you shoot to your subject, the more important this is, and if you’re shooting blossoms that’s pretty darned close.

3. Put your money into the lens.

For the most part, whatever is catching the image, whether it’s film or a sensor, it is designed to capture what the absolute best lens made for it can produce.  You want to see what your camera can do?  Give it the best lens you can afford, and it will thank you.  A great lens on a cheaper sensor is like running a car at it’s optimum tuning- you won’t be able to see what it can do until you set it up right. A great sensor with a cheap lens is like driving your car dragging a piano.  For shooting close-up, or macro, there’s nothing in the world so sweet as a true “macro” lens- a lens designed to focus at inches away from the subject.

4. Clean your lens.

The biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Fingerprints, dirt, dust on a lens is the single best way to make lens flare happen.  Seen the iPhone “Vaseline effect”?  That’s what happens when you try to take a picture through a lens with a big smudgy peanut butter fingerprint, and that’s what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with your phone or the most expensive digital camera.  The lens has to be clean.

5. Shade your lens.

One more time- the biggest enemy of clarity, sharpness and contrast in a photograph is lens flare.  Light hitting the lens glass directly, whether it’s the sun, or just reflections of bright objects nearby, are the second best way to create lens flare.  Almost every technological development in lens design in the past 50 years had been to combat and minimize lens flare, and the single most effective way to eliminate it is to use the most basic tool.  A lens shade.

I can’t overstate this simple point.  I see it constantly, people even shooting with a built-in lens shade and not using it.  For some reason it seems like it doesn’t matter, and people just don’t bother with it.  It does matter.  If the sun is hitting your glass, or even any bright light source- the sky, snow, reflections from other objects- it will degrade the quality of your photograph.  Shade that lens.

6. Look at the light.  Wait for the light.  Control the light.

A good photographer sees and controls the light, many novice photographers seem to think they’re at the mercy of “available” light.  Even if it means waiting an hour for the sun to go down, moving a reflector in to open up some shadows, or bringing in an entire studio of artificial lighting equipment, you’re always either in control if the light, or at the mercy of it.  “Photographers are painters who paint with light.” (Richard Brautigan)

Learning to work with available light, and control artificial light is probably one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you can work with to improve your photographs…  and it’s a lifelong challenge, but one of the most rewarding in all of photography.

7. Background.  It’s all about the background.

When you’re taking pictures you often see your subject with tunnel vision.  You focus on, and just see what you’re looking at and not what’s behind it.  Slow down and look for a few of the typical big distractions- strong shapes, bright colors, things that don’t separate from the subject.  (Hint: using a large aperture -lens wide open, f2.0 for example- makes things in the background go out of focus, blurring backgrounds and diminishing distractions, but more on that later.)  Once you have your subject framed, and you’re ready to snap the picture, stop yourself and look at the background.

8. Compose the photograph.

Again, with the tunnel vision.  When most people look through a viewfinder they’re seeing what they want to take pictures of.  You need to see the picture, instead of what you’re taking the picture of.  The whole picture.  You know how you always see shots of the baby, the dog, Grammy, and they’re smack in the middle of the picture, I mean dead center?  That’s what I’m talking about.

Look at the whole frame, look at what you can include and what you can eliminate to make an interesting composition.  Control the viewer’s eye.

9. If in doubt, take more pictures.

My Dad used to say, out of all the money you’ve spent on everything, film is cheap. There’s no excuse for not shooting enough film.  Now that we’re shooting pixels, there’s even more truth to that.  Try different angles, different distances, even just try shots that you don’t think work.  If you think you have the shot, that’s the time to force out a few more frames.  I can’t tell you how many times the best shots were in those last few, after you think you’ve got the shot, but just want to try some options to “see what happens”.

10. Take more pictures anyway.

See above.

My Grandfather was speaking once, showing his photographs to a Boston Camera Club group.  He got the question, “How did you know that would make a great photograph, and how did you know how to shoot it so you’d capture it so beautifully?”  His answer- from taking shot after shot after shot, for years and years… experience.  Nothing can make up for taking the pictures.  And he was shooting with a big old view camera with film that came in sheets.  One shot at a time.

Take more pictures.  If nothing more than to give yourself more experience, more of a foundation to work with.

That’s the basic list, but here are a few more tips just for you gardeners…

One of the secrets to making great photographs of blossoms and blooms is in controlling your “depth of field”.  This is a photography term simply referring to how much of your image is in focus.  Typically, flower and plant close-up shots have a shallow depth of field, or, simply, not much other than the subject itself is in crisp focus.  This is something that you control with your lens opening, (also called f-stop or aperture).  The smaller the lens opening, f22, for example, the more depth of field, and most of the frame will be in focus.  The larger the opening, f3.5, for example, (and yes, bigger openings are smaller f numbers), the shallower the focus. Take a look at this post, linking to a great Wikipedia explanation and demonstration of the effects of different lens openings.

It’s a great start to beginning to visualize what happens when you control the aperture.  Keep in mind, you have to balance the lens opening and the shutter speed to get a perfect exposure.  Open up the lens, you have to shorten the shutter speed, and vice-versa.  Using the Auto Exposure setting “A”, for aperture priority, you can select a large aperture and let the camera adjust the shutter speed accordingly.   Probably the simplest way to start to understand this is simply to put the camera on a tripod, focus on your favorite blossom, and switch the camera to “A” mode.  Set the aperture from one extreme (wide open, probably f2 or 3.5) to the other (full stop, f16 or 22) and look at the results on your computer.  It’ll be pretty obvious what’s happening.

The other bit of advice- use a camera that has these controls.  I know I said that the camera doesn’t matter so much, and that’s true, but if you are running a camera that allows you this kind of control- selection of exposure modes, and even manual focus and exposure, then it makes things a lot easier.  I’d recommend almost any Digital SLR, or “DSLR”.  The good news is, you can get into a system like that for little over $500, and we have several reviews of cameras like this at our Head-2-Head Reviews site. One of my favorite matchups is the Nikon D5000 and the Canon T1i- (I ended up with the Nikon for myself…  LOVE that camera, and it uses all my old Nikon lenses.)

A little side note, and a step down the notorious (digital) primrose path…  If you do go with a camera like any of these DSLRs, chances are you’ll have the option to shoot “RAW” files instead of JPEG format.  If you’re interested in getting the absolute most out of your camera, RAW files take you to the next level of image quality.  You need to use a program like Adobe’s Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom to take full advantage of the RAW file, but it will make a world of difference it the end result.  My book RAW Pipeline is a great overview of getting started with shooting and processing RAW.

Ted Dillard – RAW Pipeline

There you have it. It’s a start, and hopefully these little tips will help you make better photographs.  Don’t for a second think that almost every pro photographer who’s reading this isn’t, at one point or another saying to themselves, jeesh, I know, I should try harder to do that all the time…

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Article and Photographs in this feature are © Ted Dillard, all rights reserved.

For further information about photographer and teacher Ted Dillard, please visit his website:

Ted Dillard – Support for the Digital Photographer

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Thank you Ted, for all of your generous help, support and advice !

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is © The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All Site Photography Is Taken With Canon Powershot G Series Cameras from Amazon.com

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