Archive for the ‘General’ category

Looking Back, Moving Forward

January 2, 2016

One of my first posts on this blog had the same title as today’s. Something about the arrival of a new year prompts me to think about what I want the months ahead to bring, and this year is no different.

I started this blog almost exactly seven years ago, originally posting twice a week. Most recently, I’ve posted twice a month with time off for holidays, travel and (once) a broken hand. I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts and photographs with the outside world, but I’ve decided it’s time to give Garden Shoots an indefinite hiatus. I’m no longer as intimate a part of the gardening world as I used to be, and it’s been a challenge in the last year or two to come up with topics for posts that I think will appeal to my audience of friends and occasional readers.

Thank you to everyone who has read my posts, especially those who’ve taken the time to comment. I’m not disappearing forever from the blogosphere, just taking time off from regular posting. Look for the occasional article when I visit new places, especially if they’re garden-related. For those of you who may be interested in my photography business, you can always find me on Facebook. And below, I hope you enjoy a favorite photo of mine from Tuscany this past May – not a garden, but a beautiful landscape vista.

Launching and maintaining Garden Shoots has been a wonderful experience. Thanks again to everyone who was along for the ride!


Val d'Orcia, Tuscany

Vineyard at Dawn, Val d’Orcia



A Visit to a Memorial in Downtown DC

May 24, 2014

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.



American University’s Summer Look

July 26, 2013

Last week, on my way to LPI from an early client appointment, I made a quick pit stop at American University’s campus. Although this time of year there are fewer students in residence than usual, the plantings, designed by AU’s resident Landscape Architect H. Paul Davis and his colleagues, looked stunning. I wanted to share a few with you, taken with my Canon G11, before I take August off to re-charge my creative juices. (I’ll also be getting to know my new computer, which finally arrived this week after the old one died over four weeks ago.)

So enjoy the photos, and take a trip to AU (4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW in the District) if you’re in the area.


Garden Shoots will be on vacation until September. See you then!

The Blundering Gardener

April 7, 2010

I don’t usually do mid-week posts these days because of my general state of insanity due to work, but I wanted to share some big news with those of you who love gardening and excellent writing, with a dash of humor into the bargain.

The Blundering Gardener, Bonnie Blodgett, gardening writing, gardening videos

Bonnie in full gardening regalia (Drawing courtesy of The Blundering

My friend Bonnie Blodgett, who lives in St. Paul, MN, for years has published an award-winning quarterly newsletter, The Garden Letter. Recently she  started a new website, The Blundering Gardener, which has just gone live. On it she blogs, talks about her new book (see below), and offers wonderful short videos on everything from how not to get a large birch tree off your pickup truck when you just HAVE to put it in the ground that very day, to beautifying the  top of your garage with cedar shingles.

When I visited her last summer, she had just finished her new book, Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing –  and Discovering –  the Primal Sense. Can you imagine having that happen to you as a gardener – or to anyone, for that matter?  The book is due out in June and I just pre-ordered a copy from Amazon. You can check out some of the glowing advance reviews, including one from Bill Bryson, on her website.  While you’re there, you can also subscribe to The Garden Letter, which Bonnie is still putting out quarterly. I consider the issues required reading.

Tulips for A Shutterbug

March 13, 2010

As a landscape designer, I tend to plant daffodils for clients who have deer problems, or who prefer bulbs that can be depended upon to return for many years, if the site is right (mostly in terms of adequate sun and not too much ground moisture).

But as a photographer, my heart belongs primarily to tulips. Here is one of my first images of a tulip taken just for the pure joy of the color. I was trying out my new macro lens at the Cylburn Arboretum, near Baltimore. I have to say the composition isn’t great – your eye doesn’t really know where to rest. But the color probably made me a little crazy.

Parrot tulips

Parrot tulips at the Cylburn Arboretum near Baltimore, MD.

Brookside Gardens is a great place to photograph daffodils in the spring (my next header, going up in April, is a “slice” of tulips from one of their beds a couple of years ago).  In this shot, I went for the repeating line of the bulb heads. I think this is probably ‘Princes Irene,’ one of the most fabulous of the orange tulips. Wish I’d gotten a little more of the stem in the shot.

Tulip Princes Irene, Brookside Gardens

Orange tulips at Brookside Gardens

Another great place to photograph different varieties of tulips is the Tulip Library in downtown DC,  near the Tidal Basin in view of the Jefferson Memorial. You have to catch it just right, but if you do there are countless varieties to enjoy, all of them labeled.  Here’s ‘Banja Luka’ from an early-morning visit several years ago. This time, I went for a cropped profile shot, close up to capture the dew still on the petals.

Tulip Banja Luka, Tulip Library

Tulip 'Banja Luka' at the National Tulip Library can't be checked out except visually.

Finally, here are two more recent photos, both taken at my house with the tulips in vases, so I was able to control lighting and was able to get shots without contorting my body or groveling in the dirt. Special thanks to Brent and Becky Heath, whose bulb company sent me (as a member of the Garden Writers Association) some extra bulbs to trial. So here is ‘Perestroyka’, followed by a closeup of an unknown pink tulip.

Tulip Perestroyka, Brent and Becky's Bulbs

A clutch of Tulip Perestroyka, their stems bending over the side of a vase.

macro photography, tulips

This shape on the side of the tulip is what caught my eye as a photographer.

One final note: if you love tulips and want some that do come back (unlike the Darwin hybrids and the other stunners shown above), try some species tulips, like the Kaufmanniana or Greigii cultivars. I have a small group of  ‘Stresa’ tulips (yellow and red) that have been blooming reliably for me for over six years in a sunny, well-drained site. More on these another time!

My Favorite Thing

March 3, 2010

As I’ve been known to confess to fellow landscape designers, I would probably rather photograph gardens than design them.  It’s my “favorite thing.” And in most of my blog posts, photographs occupy as much space as words – if not more.  So I was enormously flattered when Deborah of Kilbourne Grove invited me to take part in a Favorite Photo Meme. Deborah’s photo of her beloved dog Piper, who now lives with a friend, is wonderful – intimate, humorous, it produces an immediate emotional connection between the viewer and subject.

Well, that’s a tough act to follow, especially since gardens don’t have kissable noses like Piper. I’ve been privileged to photograph a number of extraordinary public and private gardens for some time, and I probably have at least a dozen “favorites.” Pick just one? Impossible. But after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to share my favorite photo of my own garden, and save the other favorites for posts on other places and topics.

My front yard in early summer morning light

I like this photo because of the wonderful quality of the light (I took it about 6 a.m. on a July morning) and the area of the garden it shows. My front yard consists of a very steep, hilly area. At the top of a long series of stone steps and retaining walls, you reach a landing that serves as a bridge to the final steps to the front door. There, I placed a small seating area with a four-foot wooden bench under the embrace of an old crabapple tree. Hydrangeas (Annabelles in the background, ‘All Summer Beauty’ in the right foreground) thrive in the north-facing site, and there is a Daphne odorata in front of the bench. A very peaceful place, where my older son often sat to study when he was in high school (while I, of course, was busy elsewhere in the garden, most likely weeding). This isn’t the most technically proficient or inspiring garden photo I’ve ever taken, but it speaks to me like almost no other.

Now I would like to invite four other bloggers whose work I admire to join in the exercise:

First, Cyndy of Gardening Asylum in Connecticut . Her blog posts always lift my spirits and I love, love, love her recent photos of her Garden Muse, complete with randomly-curled metal wire. She has a good photographic eye and lots of good material to work with from her own garden. And Jean, of Jean’s Garden, recently posted some stunning photos of a pink and white amaryllis in bloom that I would loved to have taken.

Charlotte at The Galloping Gardener and Britt of The Photo Garden Bee both do what I long to do – on a regular basis, they travel to and photograph gardens all over the US (and the world), sharing photos with us so we can visit vicariously and fill out our “to see” list for vacations, retirement, or simply our dreams. Both are first-rate photographers.

If you haven’t visited any of these sites,  I hope you do so immediately. And I’ll be eager to see what each of them shares with us!

A Winter Road Trip, Part 1

February 17, 2010
Heuchera, greenhouse

A sea of heucheras in one of the greenhouses.

Today’s post is a simple travelogue for those of us weary of the endless snow blanketing our landscapes these days.

I’m about to head to northern California for a few days to visit my son. (That will be Part 2 of the Winter Road Trip series, hopefully). But in early February – before Snowmaggedon Parts 1 & 2 – two colleagues and I trekked up to central Pennsylvania to visit a new (to us) wholesale supplier. The company we visited has been around for 20 years growing wholesale bedding plants and perennials. They work primarily with independent retail nurseries (as opposed to the “big box” guys) to provide plants that are a little more unique, to help their customers set themselves apart.

Our landscape design firm is moderate in size, and we specialize in residential landscape design, installation and maintenance. As one of the in-house designers I’m always interested in seeing what might be coming up on the event horizon, and the photographer in me decided to take along the trusty Canon G11 just in case. On both counts, I was glad we made the trip.

Most of our tour time was spent in some of the many, MANY greenhouses at this particular site, one of several owned by the company.

We began by visiting three or four unheated hoop houses filled with different varieties of hellebores, one of my favorite plants. Luckily for us, there were any number of them in bloom, and out came my camera. Since their blooms droop down, I had to look hard (and get into some contorted positions) to be able to capture the blooms, but it was worth it.

Helleborus orientalis, Quality Greenhouses & Perennial FarmThis was probably my favorite shot, because the shape of the petals looked so unusual. Our tour guide said it was a “straight species hellebore” rather than a particular cultivar. In recent years various plant breeders have undertaken to develop special strains of hellebores, bred to produce particular colors of flowers, or double blossoms, but this little beauty just shines on her own.

These pink ones were also favorites.

Helleborus orientalis

Pale pink hellebores can brighten up a winter day.

My friends finally dragged me away from the hellebores and we went on to see what else was being sheltered in the greenhouses. Turns out the company is also experimenting with some one-gallon “woodies” (woody plants, trees and shrubs) to see how they will do. The other designer who had come along and I were taken with an upright version of Russian arborvitae (Microbiota decussata ‘Jacobsen’), which we immediately envisioned as a great potential addition for container plantings in shady spots.

A new upright version of Russian arborvitae being grown in one-gallon pots in a greenhouse

This shrub has ferny-looking coniferous foliage that turns bronzy in winter. (In the landscape, the species is great as a groundcover, especially in deer-infested areas in zones 3-7 as it isn’t very tasty to our four-legged friends.)

Elsewhere, we saw Acorus ‘Ogon’ with a cool-looking moss (Selaginella, I think);

Acorus 'Ogon'

and what seemed like acres of tagged four-inch pots of varieties of spreading groundcovers, tolerant of modest foot traffic, that were being grown on.

The 'Jeepers Creepers' line of plants being grown in four-inch pots, seemingly to infinity.

Amidst that sea of green and white, I came across one of the ‘Jeepers Creepers” pots with a bloom rising above the tag. Voila – ‘Pink Pussy Toes’! A tiny but oh so welcome bloom in the wintry landscape, reminding me that – eventually – spring will come.

Jeepers Creepers 'Pink Pussy Toes'

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