Archive for July 2011

Chanticleer’s Cutting Edge

July 30, 2011

As most of you know by now, my favorite public garden on the East Coast (or in the continental US, for that matter) is Chanticleer Garden, in Wayne, Pennsylvania. I’m looking forward to this fall’s annual pilgrimage to the Master Garden Photography Workshop there in early October.

One of the many delightful aspects of the garden is its inspired use of cut flowers in (among other places) its public restrooms. Over the last couple of years, whenever I’ve visited, I’ve shot images both of the current “bouquets” in those areas as well as from the Cutting Garden itself. Here’s a sampling of the combinations I’ve found throughout the garden.

Let’s start with a ‘vignette’ of masterfully chosen perennials which begged to be photographed as well as serving as fodder for bouquets: sunflowers, liatris, lilies, and goodness knows what else:

Chanticleer cutting garden, sunflowers

An enormous sunflower anchors a gorgeous combination of summer flowers in the Cutting Garden at Chanticleer in July 2010. I like this image so much I've framed it and hung it in my own home.

Other summer shots from the cutting garden, cropped for effect in some cases:

An image from the Cutting Garden in August 2010

Chanticleer Garden, cutting garden

Ditto.

Chanticleer Garden, cutting garden

Lilies, rudbeckia, and other annuals in the Cutting Garden in August 2010.

And now, the masterpieces created from the Cutting Garden. Please note (ahem) that at least one of these photos was shot in the men’s restroom (albeit before the garden opened to the public).

Chanticleer Garden, cut flowers, cutting garden, cut flower bouquets

The restrooms at Chanticleer always have amazing cut flower bouquets at the washbasins.

Chanticleer, cutting garden, cut flower arrangements

In the other bathroom.

Chanticleer Garden

A late summer/early fall arrangement.

And visitors are always greeted with astonishingly beautifully arranged cut flowers in the outdoor visitors’ gazebo.

Chanticleer, cutting garden, cut flower arrangements

Gorgeous. What else can I say?

Chanticleer is open until the end of October. If you’re in the area, or within an easy drive, don’t miss it.

Garden Shoots will be on hiatus until early September.
See you in the fall!

Seeing the Garden in Black and White

July 23, 2011

Recently a client asked me to photograph his wife’s garden for the purpose of surprising her with a few prints of it. Since this is the direction in which  I would like to head my efforts as I contemplate retiring from landscape design work, I was only too happy to oblige.

The garden (designed by his wife) is lovely, a shady paradise less than a block away from me. But after I processed about a dozen images for possible prints, he asked if I could convert some of them into black and white or sepia. I’d never done this before, and was skeptical. But what I found as I experimented with the images from their garden and others I’ve shot in the last couple of years opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about photographing gardens.

Here are two photos from a recent garden shoot (different garden), first the color and then the black and white version.

epimediums, ferns, plant combinations

Epimediums and ferns in an early spring garden image.

black and white garden images

Rendered in black and white, the image is more about shapes and textures.

Here’s another pair, from the same garden, with more contrast in the tonal range this time.

Euphorbia, plant combinations

Euphorbia and an unidentified broadleaved perennial (cimicifuga?) offer contrast in color, shape and texture.

black and white garden photographs, euphorbia

Greater dark and light variation in this image makes it more dramatic as a black and white photo than the previous example, I think. But somehow I like the ferns and epimedium shot more.

The last set from this garden is probably my favorite.

Asarum, Hydrangea 'Annabelle'

The client had asked for some photos of the variegated ginger, a slow-growing but spectacular groundcover for shade.

Asarum, black and white garden images

The same image converted to black and white.

This project sent me searching back through older images for some I could experiment on. Here’s a shot from last summer’s trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, not featured in my post on “The Luminous Lotus.”

Lotus flower, summer

A partially-opened lotus flower shot at Kenilworth Gardens in Washington DC last summer.

Ever so much more appealing, I think, in the black and white version – which surprised me.

Lotus, black and white garden photography

The same image in black and white.

In the second image, the veins on the lotus petals stand out more and the whole flower seems to float against a darker background – and the water drops on the leaf behind the flower really shine.

I’ll close with a hybrid – an image originally taken in color (as all of these were), converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, and then the underlying color layer ‘revealed’ through the use of a layer mask.

Magnolia Plantation

A red azalea against a wooden fence and live oak covered with Spanish moss at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston SC

A black and white version of the same image. Without the azalea in color, this would look dull. Trust me.

I vacillate between liking this final image and thinking it looks too gimmicky. But I thought I would include it because it shows something a little different from straight color and straight black and white.

Silver Efex Pro (now available in an upgraded version, which I don’t own) is a versatile program that can be used as a stand-alone or integrated into Lightroom and Photoshop. It offers more variants than you can imagine in terms of different “looks” for black and white images, including sepia, infrared, and a variety of custom effects you can create yourself. For what I do, I don’t envision using it more than occasionally, but I found it easy to use and more flexible than the black and white options available in Lightroom.

Crape Myrtles for Everyman

July 16, 2011

It is that time of year when wherever you look, crape myrtles are strutting their stuff. I’ve been known to favor them in certain design situations – when clients request them (assuming they have enough sun), when I want a tree whose size can be kept in check, and when I want four-season interest in a sunny site with no irrigation.

Lagerstroemia 'Natchez,' crape myrtles, garden design

A trio of white 'Natchez' crape myrtle trees frame the entry walk to this house in Chevy Chase.

While ‘Natchez,’ which bears white blooms, is my personal favorite, one of my favorite instructors in my landscape design course used to say, “What’s the point of having a tree that flowers in summer when everything else is past bloom, if you can’t have COLOR?”

Lagerstroemia, pink crape myrtle

A pink crape myrtle, possibly 'Tuscarora'

Recently, however, I’ve been noticing how commonly these trees are used in commercial or public spaces, for screening or to provide a colorful setting for seating areas. Here is an “allee” of ‘Natchez’ crape myrtles lining a pedestrian/biking path in downtown Bethesda, Maryland.

Lagerstroemia 'Natchez'

A row of Natchez crape myrtles screens a parking lot from a bike path in suburban Maryland.

On my trip home last weekend from our local Giant grocery store in Silver Spring, I saw crape myrtles used in three different ways. One was lining the sidewalk in planter squares along two rows of restaurants, coffee shops and dry cleaning establishments. Anchoring this ‘allee’ were two other groupings. One was by some outdoor tables at a Caribou Coffee shop, screening patrons’ views of the busy street beyond.

Lagerstroemia, crape myrtle, screening

Pink crape myrtles (cultivar unknown) provide a welcome screen for outdoor dining tables in busy downtown Silver Spring, MD

Across from it was this trio of beauties, surrounded by some Knockout roses and striped zebra grass, neither of which seemed to be performing as well as the crape myrtles.

Lagerstroemia, crape myrtles

Dark pink crape myrtles in a shopping center in Silver Spring.

The actual blossoms were a bit lighter than this picture shows (the trees were in full shadow at this point). But they were definitely a hot pink, as opposed to the lighter lavender-pink of the ones across the way at the coffee shop. Which led me to wonder why whoever designed these areas had chosen different cultivars, and ones that arguably clash in terms of their colors?

And even closer to home, here’s a small pedestrian island at a busy intersection that I see on my way to work most mornings.

Lagerstroemia, crape myrtles

A deep pink-purple crape myrtle in a small pedestrian island on the border between Washington, DC and Chevy Chase MD. Note the matching-colored phlox in the foreground!

I understand why these trees are popular. The many varieties developed at the National Arboretum over the years, named for various Native American tribes, are mildew-resistant and offer interest in all four seasons. They bloom at a time (late summer) when other parts of the garden may be past their prime; they thrive on hot weather and are drought-resistant, once established; they have great fall color

Lagerstroemia, crape myrtles, fall foliage

Fall foliage on crape myrtles is spectacular.

and exfoliating bark. Their down sides are few: the blossoms are messy when they fall, requiring diligence if you plant them near a patio or other hard surface; and they need to be planted (at least in this area) no later than the end of October (and even that is pushing it).

The Arboretum has a separate section where they trial these trees, and includes them also among the plantings in the Gotelli Collection, where they work surprisingly well. Here’s Lagerstroemia ‘Osage,’ photographed at the Arboretum several years ago,

Lagerstroemia x indica 'Osage'

An 'Osage" crape myrtle in bloom.

and a shot of its gorgeous exfoliating bark.

Lagerstroemia x indica 'Osage' bark

Exfoliating bark makes crape myrtles truly wonderful four-season trees.

I suppose their low-maintenance nature, and the ability to choose among cultivars ranging from shrub size to 20-30′ (‘Natchez’ and a few of the other varieties) is what accounts for their apparent increasing popularity outside of residential landscapes. I’d be interested to know if any readers in Zones 7 and warmer (where these trees are hardy) see them often outside of home gardens.

For more information on the care of Lagerstroemia, visit this part of the National Arboretum’s website.

Fourth of July Garden Furnishings

July 8, 2011

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I found myself in the vicinity of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, spending time with a friend exploring little towns in Shenandoah County. We stumbled on a cute little store in Mt. Jackson, Virginia called Wetlands Trading Company. “Ponds, Carpentry, Landscaping,” reads their business card, and “Garden/Gift Shop, stone, Mulch, Pond Supplies.” In other words, something for everyone.

So this week, no in-depth look at plants, just some fun ideas you might like for your own garden. Enjoy!

Consider the Vitex

July 1, 2011

As summer is ushered in here, I’ve noticed a lot of plants that are blooming earlier than usual, perhaps due to our rainy spring and early onset of hot weather. I see crape myrtles in full bloom in some of the gardens I visit, for pity’s sake – usually they have the grace to wait until July or August, stretching out the summer season a bit.

One of the early bloomers I’m seeing these days is Vitex agnus-castus, or the chaste tree. To be honest, the first example I saw of this shrub when I was studying woody plants at the National Arboretum didn’t impress me a lot. Touted as an alternative to butterfly bushes (which are not my favorite plants because they are so awkward in winter), I wondered why they would be considered superior. Then I came across this specimen in the garden of the William Paca House in Annapolis, and I understood.

Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree, William Paca House

A Vitex trained as a small tree in the Paca House

The shape, the color, the leaves, all combined to create a gorgeous impression. The blossoms have a spicy fragrance that does indeed attract butterflies as well as hummingbirds, apparently.

The Vitex is hardy to Zone 7 (or possibly 6, in protected sites). Around here, one usually sees it as a shrub. The other day I saw it anchoring the corner of a mixed border bed in a lovely sidewalk garden area in the District of Columbia not far from where I live. Most of the blossoms you see here are on new growth, as the Vitex is a “cut-back” shrub.

Vitex agnus-castus

A Vitex shrub at the corner of a mixed border, providing summer color on a hot day.

But sometimes, when a Vitex is extra happy, it can grow to tree size. One night recently, on my way home, I saw just such an example, and stopped to photograph it.

Vitex agnus-castus, Chaste tree

A tree-sized specimen in northwest Washington DC.

The garden owner was outside watering a new azalea, and was kind enough to talk to me. Having lived in the house only three years, she didn’t know how old the Vitex was, but obviously treasured it. She said the past winter had been hard on it, causing them to lose some of the interior branches, and that in past years the blooms had covered virtually the entire tree, creating a spectacular effect. I can believe it, given how great the tree looked even in its current state.

I’ve planted Vitexes for a number of clients, and will continue to do so. For a little background on its origins and stories behind its name, click here. But more importantly, spread the word to those friends of yours thinking about planting butterfly bushes – suggest that they consider a Vitex, instead.


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