High Summer at Green Spring Gardens

Posted July 18, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: Environment, landscape, Landscape design solutions, photography

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It’s high summer. Hot as you know what. Here in the metro DC area, gardens are starting to struggle (including mine). So  recently I decided to venture out to Green Spring Gardens, in Alexandria VA, a  Fairfax County public garden known for its great plantings (as well as its excellent educational offerings for gardeners). I wanted to see what was blooming, or otherwise looking good, despite the challenging summer climate. Here’s what I found – an impressive mix of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. If you live in the area, take a road trip for yourself!

 Garden Shoots will be on vacation until after Labor Day. See you in September!

A Spring Visit to Chanticleer

Posted July 4, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography, Travel

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In May, I was able to make an all too brief visit to Chanticleer Garden on my way to a law school graduation farther north. The day was alternately sunny and cloudy, providing both opportunities and challenges for me as I roamed the grounds. I’ve written about Chanticleer in the spring before, so here I’m sharing only the newest images. As any devotee of this garden knows, however, Chanticleer is always evolving and there’s always something new to discover and photograph. My favorite image from the trip is at the end of the gallery. I was thrilled recently when one of my nieces saw it on my business Facebook page, and asked for a print of it. Hope you like it too.


Chanticleer Garden

The arbor at the bottom of the Gravel Garden, which overlooks the Pond Garden and the Great Lawn, is rich with wisteria and alliums in the foreground.

70 Days of Photos (Part II)

Posted June 20, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: architecture, people, photography

Tags: , , , , ,
photo a day, window light

Window Light on the Floor

Last week I gave some background on the photo a day project I began at the end of March. It’s been a fascinating journey and one I’m still pursuing. This photo, of afternoon light coming through a window onto my dining room rug, epitomizes what I learned from the “Naked Vision” class taught by Colleen Henderson: look around you. There are photographs waiting to be taken everywhere. Small everyday moments that make you catch your breath and reach for your camera shouldn’t be ignored.

Trust your instincts. There is a reason you wanted to photograph that chair, that shadow, that building. Maybe the subjects aren’t grand, but they speak to you, so don’t ignore the urge to capture the image. You don’t have to go somewhere exotic to work on your vision. Another lesson I learned: don’t be afraid of high ISO’s or feel you always need a tripod to capture an image. The opening photo was taken at a high ISO, hand held.

So here are some images I took that are some of my favorites from the workshop. Many of them capture light and shadows, shapes and stillness. A few – to my surprise – feature animals or people (not usually my strong suit). I like them all!

I’m still shooting daily, and will continue to do so until it no longer appeals to me or I feel I need a break. This weekend and next I’m taking an intensive Photoshop class (again with Colleen) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, so an iPhone image may have to suffice. The important thing is to keep looking and shooting.

70 Days of Photos

Posted June 6, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, photography

Tags: , , , ,

As most of you know, I’ve spent most of my time behind the lens capturing garden images. Loving gardens and wanting to capture them on film (and later, digitally) is what propelled me into my current profession as a photographer. And since I retired from designing gardens in late December, I’ve been delighted to continue photographing them for other designers and garden owners. In March, however, fueled by lots of non-garden photography while I was in Cuba, I enrolled in a workshop run by local fine-arts photographer and teacher Colleen Henderson that required participants to commit to taking photographs every day. For us, that amounts to a total of seventy days (the workshop ends tomorrow). Regardless of where we were, what the weather was like, whether we had a tripod or not, we agreed to pull out our cameras (DSLR, point-and-shoot, or iPhone) and capture an image (or more) to share on a private Facebook group page. There are many such “photo a day” projects – if you Google the phrase you’ll find links to many websites, Facebook pages and blogs exploring that theme. Today I’m going to share a range of photos from those I took. These are flower or garden-themed, although in fact the majority of the images I took weren’t taken in gardens. And in the next post, when I show more of the images, I’ll share what I think I learned from this exercise, which was a real eye-opener and an inspiring process.

A Visit to a Memorial in Downtown DC

Posted May 24, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: architecture, Environment, General, landscape, Landscape design solutions

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Several weeks ago, on a visit to the National Building Museum with a friend, I came across the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for the first time. Located in the Judiciary Square area of downtown Washington DC (in the 400 block of E Street, N.W.), the memorial honors law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

The memorial occupies a large plaza space in front of the National Building Museum and is reachable by Metro’s Judiciary Square stop.

The circulating pool in the center is a popular site for birds refreshing themselves, but the most striking feature of the memorial is two long curving walls of blue-gray marble walls, carved with the names of over 2000 officers killed in the line of duty (new names are added regularly).

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

A portion of one of the walls carved with names. Flowers are left as tributes, and sometimes photos.

From a design standpoint, the curving walls also provide a place for rest, reflection, and a respite if it is sunny thanks to the carefully pruned linden tree hedges that reminded me somewhat of the hornbeam hedges at Dumbarton Oaks. You can choose one side or the other of the plaza to avoid the sun if it’s very bright.

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

One of the curved pathways. There is a seatwall on one side of each of the paths on either side of the plaza while the other wall is carved with names.

At the entrance to each of the curved pathways, there are sculptures of an adult lion protecting its cubs – symbolic of the protective service provided by law enforcement officers to the public.
National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

The day I visited, there were flowers bedecking all of the lion statues.

The center of the memorial is a large plaza, planted with honey locust trees, which cast high, light shadows in summer – perfect for sheltering people walking across the plaza.

National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial

The center plaza part of the memorial.

The memorial is about three acres in size and apparently is filled with daffodils in bloom in the spring. For more information about its history and events that are held there periodically, please visit its website.



Bartholdi Park

Posted May 9, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: Environment, landscape, photography, Travel

Tags: , , , , ,

Several weeks ago, my “photo a day” group took a field trip down to the area around the Mall and some of the surrounding museums. Lately I have been shooting subjects other than gardens, but I was delighted when our workshop teacher, Colleen Henderson, introduced me to Bartholdi Park.

Situated across from (and technically part of) the US Botanic Garden, Bartholdi Park  is almost two acres in size and was recently renovated. If you work in the area, you should find your way to it as a place to escape the goings-on on Capitol Hill – there are benches, walkways, and a “Fountain of Water and Light.” I wasn’t there long enough to explore all of it, but look forward to returning. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these photos I took before returning to capture architecture and shadows around the Mall.

A Brief Visit to Paley Park

Posted April 26, 2014 by Melissa
Categories: landscape, Landscape design solutions, photography, Travel

Tags: , , ,

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Paley Park in New York City. I’d read about it for years and had put it high on my “to visit” list while I was in the city for a few days. It was certainly worth the walk (I was staying in mid-town near Lexington and E. 36th Street).

First, I passed by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, under serious exterior renovations,

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Scaffolding covering the upper portion of the front facade of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, across from Rockefeller Center.

but with its beautiful granite columns and wooden doors just begging to be photographed.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The contrast between the wood and granite was stunning.

I continued on my walk, turned right on E. 53rd Street, and just beyond the subway entrance on the left hand side of the street spied the opening to Paley Park.

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks

The subway entrance near Paley Park is on E. 53rd Street. Walk less than fifty feet beyond and it’s on your left.

The park, opened in 1967 and designed by the architectural firm of Zion and Breen, is considered by many to be among the finest urban spaces in the United States. Located on the former site of the Stork Club, the space was given by William Paley (who was head of CBS) in memory of his father.

Central to the success of the space is a twenty-foot high waterfall at the back of the park, which you see immediately on entering.

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks

The waterfall stretches almost the entire width of the space occupied by the park, and its noise successfully masks the sounds from the street, creating a peaceful space for visitors.

Small, lightweight metal chairs and tables scattered through can easily be moved around to allow visitors to sit alone or in groups. On my visit, aside from a few parents with children, the park’s visitors seemed simply to be enjoying a chance to read, rest a bit, and (of course) check their email.

A woman enjoys a quiet moment in Paley Park to catch up on her reading.

A woman enjoys a quiet moment in Paley Park to catch up on her reading.

Photographing the waterfall and the tulips was also a popular pastime both for me and other visitors.

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks

Paley Park, New York City, pocket parksAnd apparently in warmer weather, there’s a small refreshments stand where you can get a drink or a bite to eat.
Paley Park, New York City, pocket parks


A handicapped ramp on the right side of the steps up to the park. There is a similar one on the left side as well (not shown here).

The honey-locust trees in the park (not in leaf while I was there) provide high, dappled shade for visitors in the summer.
Paley Park
For more information about Paley Park, check out the description on The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s website. And plan a visit yourself if you’re in New York. It’s a lovely spot.



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