Posted tagged ‘color’

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!

Winter Jasmine for the Cold Weather Garden

February 24, 2012

How many plants do you know that bloom in the winter? Hellebores, yes. Witchhazels, ditto. Snowdrops, depending on how mild the winter is. Today’s post, however, is in praise of Jasminum nudiflorum, or winter jasmine.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum gracing a brick wall at Dumbarton Oaks (near the Rose Garden)

I first understood the allure of this arching, trailing shrub when I saw it in bloom at Dumbarton Oaks, early on in my education as a gardener.  I mean, how beautiful is that?

There are other locations at Dumbarton where the visitor comes across it, although not necessarily as dramatically placed.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Growing through a stone "lattice" wall in another part of Beatrix Farrand's masterpiece.

Dumbarton Oaks, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Behind the library, overlooking the grass steps.

Winter jasmine’s period of bloom is roughly six to eight weeks long, a real plus for color-starved eyes in winter. However, the flowers don’t appear all at once. They open sporadically, which means that the effect can be less than spectacular. Best performance is in full-sun sites.

According to one of my favorite garden publications, The Avant Gardener (don’t look for a website, it doesn’t have one), winter jasmine will spread up to 10 to 15′ wide and grow 2-3′ high. It’s hardy down to Zone 6 and supposed can be cut back to about 12″ high occasionally, to promote strong growth.

Even during the spring, summer and fall, however, winter jasmine is a good choice for spilling over stone walls in the landscape. The new shoots are green, and the foliage is delicate in appearance. Here it is in a Chevy Chase client’s garden last June.

Jasminum nudiflorum, winter jasmine, stone walls

Winter jasmine looks good year-round.

As you can see from this photo, a happy specimen of this plant will just keep growing . . . and growing . . . and growing. (This, of course, makes it a great choice for planting on sunny slopes – it may not be evergreen but since its shoots are green in winter, the ground won’t look bare.) So if there is soil at the bottom of the wall where you plant it, and you don’t want it to root there, a little maintenance will be necessary.  Otherwise, sit back and enjoy it.

A Visit To the Oxford Botanic Garden

October 7, 2011

High on my list of gardens to visit while staying in Oxfordshire was one close to my friend’s flat – the Oxford Botanic Garden. Located directly across from a splendid garden at Magdalen College (more about that soon), the OBG is a Walled Garden that contains the national collection of euphorbias,

Oxford Botanic Garden, euphorbia

Aren't these euphorbias in the OBG splendid?

various plant-specific beds such as the one with ornamental grasses,

Oxford Botanic Garden, ornamental grasses

A view of part of the ornamental grasses bed at the Oxford Botanic Garden with Karl Foerster and Miscanthus grasses, among others.

and the “Tolkien tree.” This Austrian pine (Pinus nigra sp. nigra), which must be at least 60′ high and has grown from a seed planted in 1790, was described by one of the OBG gardening staff to us as the one that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein (a fellow at both Merton and Exeter Colleges during his many years at Oxford University), to create the Ents, massive anthropomorphic tree characters in The Lord of the Rings.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Pinus nigra var. nigra, Tolkien tree

The "Tolkien Tree" inside the walled garden at the Oxford Botanic Garden.

All these wonders (and many more, including poppies in bloom in August, lucky Brits!) can be seen inside the walled portion of the OBG. Pass through the door in the wall beyond the Tolkien tree, however, and you encounter another feast for the eyes – the Autumn Borders, designed by the husband and wife design team of Nori and Sandra Pope. I’ll let the photos tell the richness of this scene.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope

A section of the Autumn Border that sits underneath the Tolkien Tree on the other side of the wall.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope


Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope

One section of the Autumn Borders had an amazing variety of dark-leaved dahlias in full bloom. Above, the orange and yellow dahlia is 'Moonfire.'

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope, Dahlias

Another variety of orange dark-leaved dahlias in the Autumn Border.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Popes and their work with color in the garden, I can recommend their book Color by Design: Planting the Contemporary Garden,  with photography by Clive Nichols, whose work I greatly admire. And if you are ever fortunate enough to visit Oxford, be sure to leave time to visit the Oxford Botanic Garden.

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.

Flowering Dogwoods

May 7, 2011

This year the flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) have been nothing short of spectacular here in the metro DC area. These “four-season” trees are treasured for their flowers, berries, fall leaf color and arresting horizontal habit. Like this one.

Cornus florida, flowering dogwood, Washington DC area

A deep rosy-pink Cornus florida in peak bloom near my house.

A single specimen, like the one above, is breathtaking in its shape and its flowers.

Cornus florida, flowering dogwood blossoms

The cross-shaped appearance of dogwood bracts (the "flowers" are in the center of the grouped bracts and will eventually open, themselves). Here I think the Canon G11 has over-saturated the colors a bit.

The flowering dogwood is native to North America (I once heard a British garden owner bemoan the fact that she couldn’t grow them in the UK). Often seen on the edge of woodlands, it is a classic “understory” tree that usually reaches heights of about 20 to 25 feet, with a very wide spread.

Cornus florida, flowering dogwood

A trio of white and pink dogwoods at the edge of an area of much taller trees in suburban Potomac, Maryand

Cornus florida, white flowering dogwoods

Two white flowering dogwoods with branches blending into each other's space.

Despite what the books say, in some instances you run across flowering dogwoods that have grown 30′ or more, reaching for the sky, especially where light is scarce, and as they age losing lower limbs in the process. I found such a beauty in the garden of a client nearby recently.

Cornus florida, flowering dogwood

A high-canopy, older dogwood still radiantly beautiful.

I mentioned a “love-fear” relationship to these beautiful trees. As beautiful as they are, I have been reluctant to plant them for clients unless specifically requested to do so. That’s because of anthracnose, a deadly disease afflicting Cornus florida along the East Coast.  It claimed two of the five dogwoods that were in my own garden when I moved in. Two are left, holding their own, although one lost major branches this year thanks to a heavy snowstorm. That one now looks like a fork stuck in the ground. But the other one still entrances me with its white blossoms every year, and I hope to have it in my garden until I’m no longer the gardener.

Redbuds in Bloom

April 16, 2011

It has been a cold and rainy spring here in the Washington area so far. The Tidal Basin Yoshino cherries bloomed late, forcing the mobs who wanted to stroll under their gorgeous branches to bundle up as if it were still late February.

Now it’s mid-April, and the weather is warming up a bit. My crabapple is getting ready to burst into bloom (the parts that don’t have fireblight, that is . . . sigh). In the meantime I’ve been admiring another one of my favorite spring trees, the Eastern  redbud (or Cercis canadensis).

Cercis canadensis

A redbud tree as a specimen in a suburban DC front yard.

This tree’s buds form directly on the branches, before the leaves come out, and are usually a very intense purple-pink shade.

Cercis candensis, Forest Pansy

Cercis canadensis buds on a tree limb in early spring.

Before you know it, the limbs are literally covered in these buds, which expand into small blossoms.

Cercis canadensis

Cercis candensis in bloom

A favorite type of redbud for designers around here to include in residential gardens is called “Forest Pansy.” Its leaves are burgundy, as opposed to green, unless the weather gets too hot, in which case the unusual color can fade.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy', redbud, foliage

The foliage on a Forest Pansy cultivar has a reddish tint. Note the heart-shaped leaves.

These trees have stout trunks and a spreading habit – give them room when siting them. They rarely grow over 25′ tall, and have life spans of 35-40 years – nothing like an oak or maple. But in the right place in the landscape they can add a lot in spring.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy,' redbud

A Forest Pansy redbud brightens an early-spring landscape.

For those who crave something a little more exotic, you can look for a Chinese redbud, or Cercis chinensis. The National Arboretum developed a cultivar of this rarer version of the redbud some years ago, called ‘Don Egolf,’ but I haven’t been able to find it except occasionally from mail-order firms. When I was down at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden the first weekend in April, however, I spotted several C. chinensis ‘Avondale’ trees.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Cercis chinensis 'Avondale', Chinese redbud

A Cercis chinensis tucked into a mixed border at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Their habit is very different from that of a regular redbud – much more upright in shape, making them ideal for including in tighter spaces. When I saw one on its own around the corner from this one, however, I didn’t care for the way it looked as a specimen standing alone – it seemed like a bunch of large redbud branches stuck into a vase, like a crape myrtle trying to sprout pink buds along its branches from the ground up. Still, I wouldn’t mind finding a way to include one in a mixed border of trees, like here. Especially in the garden, variety can add spice to life.

Red in the Winter Landscape

February 5, 2011

It’s cold and snowy and a little icy outside my door. First power outage is behind me, and spring seems very far away. I’ve almost finished redecorating the upstairs bedroom (although it still needs some artwork on the walls). But my eye is hungry for a strong jolt of color.

Red is a powerful hue, one that draws your eye, wherever you are. Here’s an image from my Mexico trip, on a street where someone REALLY liked red.

Guanajuato, architecture

Street in Guanjuato

A little red goes a long way (and a lot can be overpowering). So in the garden, I use it judiciously. But this time of year, when much of the landscape is muted tones or covered in snow, even a little bit can lift your spirits. Berries on Ilex verticillata (winterberry) look great in snow

Ilex verticillata, winterberry

Snowy Ilex verticillata berries

or in pots with other seasonal choices, like the pine branches here.

Winterberry, Ilex verticillata

A spray of Ilex verticillata berries in a late-fall container at the National Arboretum.

Another favorite pairing for them in the landscape is with ornamental grasses.

Winterberry, ornamental grasses, winter

Winterberry with ornamental grasses at the National Arboretum.

Berries aren’t the only place to find reds in the winter landscape. Cornus alba ‘Ivory Halo’ is one of my go-to plants for winter interest. In the summer, its variegated leaves can light up shady areas of the garden, although it also does well in sun. But come winter, its branches are red, providing a strong focal point and lots of visual interest. The newest shoots have the strongest color, so prune out the oldest canes in the spring periodically. And plant this shrub, if you can, against a background of evergreens for maximum impact.

Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo'

The stems of variegated red twig dogwood show their color only in the winter.

Finally, if you’re looking for something larger, try Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku,’ often referred to as the “coral bark” Japanese maple. Like ‘Ivory Halo,’ its reddest branches are the newest. In the growing season, its leaves are a peaceful green, turning to a yellow-red in the fall. Somewhat twiggy in habit, it won’t eat the house, which also can make it susceptible to winter breakage from heavy snows. Here is a shot of a young specimen which I saw at a recent trade show.

Acer palmatum Sango Kaku, coral bark Japanese maple

The coral bark Japanese maple offers another alternative for gardeners seeking some strong color in their winter landscape.

So for those of you who are looking for some red to perk things up during the winter in your garden, the options are varied. Go for it!

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