Archive for January 2013

Warming up Some Tulips

January 25, 2013

In case you don’t live in the DC area, it’s winter here now. The days are shorter, the light goes faster, and there are only so many trips I can make to the National Arboretum or client gardens in search of new images. Today we even had some light snow, but too late in the afternoon to make venturing out with my camera feasible. (Maybe tomorrow.)

So recently I’ve been experimenting with some techniques in Photoshop to add a little warmth and light to some older photos in my way-too-large image library. (Nothing like a 300 MB PSD file to clog up your operating system’s speed, right?) Here’s a 2009 photo  of three tulips, taken in my dining room, where I didn’t have to worry about wind but where the light conditions  and background were less than optimal.

Textures in Photoshop

Three pink tulips with a blah background (i.e., my dining room walls).

And here’s the “after” shot:

Textures in Photoshop, Flypaper Textures

‘Tulips Sea and Skies’ is now one of the images I use for custom note cards. (Without the annoying copyright line, of course)

How did I do it? With the help of two “texture” files from Flypaper Textures, called ‘Sakura Skies’ and ‘Tempest Seas.’

Textures in Photoshop, Flypaper Textures

The two textures I used from Flypaper Texture’s “Spring Painterly” pack to get to the finished image.

In Photoshop CS5 (I just upgraded to CS6 but this technique should work with almost any version of the program, or in Photoshop Elements as well), I used ‘Skies’ as the first layer over the background image, set the blending mode to ‘Darken’ and reduced the opacity of that layer to 80%. (I then used a layer mask to make the edges of the tulips a little clearer.)

Then I added the ‘Tempest Seas’ texture file as another layer, changed the blend mode to Overlay, and set the opacity to 70%. With a final Curves layer adjustment to darken some of the lighter areas and lighten the tulips, I was finished. (For a good online tutorial on blending, click here.)

These texture packs I bought aren’t cheap, although with a little looking around you may find some discount codes to lower the purchase price. But they are very high quality, large images (400 px square at 300 dpi) that have enough variety in each one that you can move them around until you get the effect you want.

If you look online, you may also find some free textures to use, including on Flickr – but be careful to check what rights have been reserved or requests made of potential downloading before proceeding. You can also make your own by taking photos of skies, water, grasses, crumpled paper, or anything else that you think might work. This is all about experimenting, and it’s very much a matter of personal taste.

I’ll close with another image of mine, from the Arboretum last fall, where I thought the use of some textures enhanced the overall effect (the textures are Heather and Necropolis, again from Flypaper Textures).

Flypaper Textures, textures in Photoshop

An image of the Capitol Columns with wildflower plantings, enhanced with texture overlays.

Destruction in the Garden

January 11, 2013
tree damage

August 2012 in my side yard.

Just when you think your garden has suffered as much as it can, you find out you’re wrong.

Last year, as many readers know, I lost two beloved trees in my front yard, which turned a north-facing sloped shade garden into the horticultural equivalent of the Sahara Desert. I’m still coping with those changes.

Then, in early August, my next-door neighbor’s massive, leaning oak tree fell on their house, crushing the attic and top floors (fortunately no one was home). The canopy was wide enough to rip bricks from their chimney and hurl them into my side garden, and to crush a section of fencing, my wobbly arbor and destroy a number of shrubs. (Again, fortunately, no damage to my house, just the garden).

A closer look at the arbor area.

A closer look at the arbor area.

Arbor debris surrounded by bricks after the tree canopy was removed from the house next door.

Arbor debris surrounded by bricks after the tree canopy was removed from the house next door. The hanging line was my cable connection.

To the right of the photo above, you can see the large stand of azaleas shown in the  2011 photo below. I had just had them carefully pruned but they still suffered some damage.

The old arbor and stand of azaleas in happier days.

The old arbor and stand of azaleas in happier days.

What did Henry Mitchell say? “Wherever humans garden, there are magnificent heartbreaks. It is not nice to garden anywhere. Everywhere there are violent winds, startling once-per-five-centuries floods, unprecedented droughts, record-setting freezes, abusive and blasting heats never known before.” (From The Essential Earthman).

But gardeners are made of stern stuff. My first act after removing some shrubs damaged beyond repair (a pair of variegated Pieris japonica which would have not liked the new, additional sun anyway) and pruning broken branches off my star magnolia, was to commit to a new arbor.

A new white arbor has found a home where the old one was. Now all that remains is to decide what to plant to adorn it.

A new white arbor has found a home where the old one was. Now all that remains is to decide what to plant to adorn it.

I like looking through it from my kitchen window. And even if the new one won’t be such a line of demarcation in terms of sun and shade, it will remind me that gardens change constantly, and we have to be prepared to do so as well. So this winter I’ll curl up with my favorite gardening books and dream about how to re-design the space I see from so many windows. Opportunities beckon.


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