January 26, 2016

Tips on Photographing Your Garden: 4 YOUR GARDEN

I don't in any way shape or form claim to be an excellent, much less professional, photographer. I shudder at the quality of some of the images I've taken and then posted on this blog. But that's the point of doing something you're not great at, isn't it? To get better, to learn something new, to produce a poor result... so that you have a benchmark for improvement?  I am not great at taking pictures but I am certainly better than before  (my mantra for January). I am also trying in this new year to be willing (to put it bluntly)... to suck at something NOW so that I can learn a new skill for the future.  

If you want to hone your garden shutterbug skills, watch LC and me on Friday's 4 YOUR GARDEN discuss reasons that might motivate you. In my next post : 5 TIPS YOU CAN USE NOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PICTURE TAKING IN THE GARDEN.

...and yes, I do know it should have been between the bride and ME, not I.  :) Live tv you know...

January 22, 2016

Moss and National Squirrel Appreciation Day

And in a nutshell, my dears.....that would be me. Long before it became the darling of florists and Martha wannabes  everywhere, I was utterly fascinated by moss and leaf mold and woodland decay...and the tiny plantlets they succored...diminutive fern and clover and ever so delicate, fairy-sized wildflowers.

When I was but a wee thing (since we are channeling the little folk here...) , in second or third grade perhaps, (I really can't remember,) my family lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, and our family would on occasion go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  On one such occasion (I will spare you the details...) I got lost in the woods and as evening approached, scores of rangers and volunteers were commandeered to find me before nightfall. It was turning cold, and my light jacket wasn't doing the trick. Neither were my off-trail navigational skills or my poor vision (extreme undiagnosed myopia was a problem.).

At any rate, I finally stopped, and given the cold conditions, covered myself up with leaves for whatever warmth I thought they would provide. I then put my feet in a mossy log to keep them warm...but not until after examining it for critters. (Smart little thing...though not smart enough to keep from getting lost...but I digress.)  In the process, however, I couldn't help but notice all of the succulent green moss and cute little fern growing on the outside of the downed tree. A lovely little moment of distraction to keep the boogie man (and bears) away. I remember it to this day, that little interlude. Fast forward -- I was found. The end.

Happily, I adore hiking still, and Husband and I go whenever possible, wherever possible. While I enjoy it in almost any type of geography,  my favorite trekking environment remains the cool and wooded mountain terrain of my youth.

I thought of all of this as I was making preparations for my Thanksgiving table last year, and my beloved woodlands became the theme for the tablescape. As I didn't share these images with you then, and since the tableau would be more than appropriate for a celebration of any kind this time of year, I decided to share them with you now.

I used an old shallow metal strainer, then crumpled, lightly moistened newsprint into a mounded shape to create the rounded form. I then molded chicken wire across the surface and secured the edges by tucking them over the lip of the container. 

 Moss, some of it with fledgling little ferns, was then tucked into and laid over the chicken wire. 

After heavily spritzing with water again, I nestled in small pinecones, acorns, mossy twigs, etc. for added texture and interest. Right before guests arrived, I placed the metal container into a shallow basket of the same size, and placed the entire arrangement on a wooden cake stand.

I 'mulched' two aged pots planted with Lemon Cypress topiary from Schubert Nursery (here) with a similar mossy mix for the sideboard behind the table.

Note the basket now holding the arrangement. 

I used  my favorite Thanksgiving china, Johnson Brothers Brown Devonshire, (find it here on Ebay)

and then tricked out the table with assorted little embellishments...squirrel s&p dishes, leafy placecards and matching squirrel holders for such. A few golden pinecones and acorns and pomegranates held over from previous years added a little glamour.

 In the background you can see another table set in a similar fashion in the breakfast room.

 Although Thanksgiving was months ago, I decided to blog about this centerpiece....

because yesterday was NATIONAL SQUIRREL APPRECIATION DAY, and well, it just seemed fitting. Enjoy the weekend all!

For more about my thoughts on squirrels, go here, NEMESIS OF FALL: SQUIRRELS.

January 19, 2016

A Look Back: Rosemary Verey's Garden

As a rule (though not an absolute), gardeners are very generous, gracious people. I wrote a post about it,  Garden Graciousness (here), not too long ago. Case in point, when I visited Barnsley House here Rosemary Very's Garden, way back when, I panicked when we arrived,

as it appeared that the garden was closed. Being a neophyte garden tourist at the time, I was unfamiliar with the practice of OPEN and CLOSED hours and days for garden visitation. (DUH).

Though it indeed WAS closed that day, a garden hand was out working, and graciously invited us in for our own private wanderings...something I didn't appreciate at the time as being such a very special thing. Such warm hospitality; such garden generosity. You probably have stories of your own about the giving nature of gardeners.

I was, and am, a huge fan of Rosemary Verey and had read and studied most of what she had written and published about her garden. I salivated over each and every image in her books,

and as you can well imagine, my fellow gardeners, when I was actually THERE, I was almost too awestruck to think and assimilate all of the beauty, all of the ideas, all of the horticultural mastery.

As I recall, I mostly just walked around with my mouth hanging open, too awestruck to take in much useful information.

It was only when I got back home... and re-examined my photos (sadly, of very poor quality in that pre-digital age. I can't begin to imagine how many images I would come back with now...hopefully of better quality... as I've learned a little about photography since then...) 

that I should have adopted a far more selfish attitude (the ying to the generous gardener yang, if you will) on the garden tour... the one I employ each time I visit a a garden now...of any size...in any environment...of any style. I now know to look at each landscape and garden through the lens of

(After seeing this image when I got back, I immediately put two round finials on the posts of the second arbor in the potager. A garden flourish that seems so obvious now, but that hadn't occurred to me until this visit.)

What's in it for me?

...or rather, my garden (Husband would no doubt argue they are one and the same.)

In almost every photo that I examine now, I find some useful insight into how I have and can use  (okay steal) the lessons from another garden space to up the beauty/productivity/practicality of my own growing spaces.

The large golden forms you see here are of variegated golden hollies. I have tried to incorporate this same aesthetic with the far less expensive, and easier to find,  Golden Euonymous.  

Now the Grumpy Gardener at SOUTHERN LIVING (I know him personally, and he does, indeed live up to his name) will tell you in his article (here) THE FIVE MOST AWFUL PLANTS TO USE IN YOUR FRONT LANDSCAPE) that this plant has too many negative attributes (insect issues, garish color, poor use in the landscape) to be of any value in the garden. To which I say "Poppycock! Don't be a hater!" (forgive the strong language). In my book, there are no bad plants, just very poor applications of their use. Manage this plant's insect issues with dormant oil, its garish tone with a bit of shade, and use it as a statement plant (i.e. as topiary, or in pots) to magnify its virtues.

This picture from Verey's Garden was the inspiration for  creating a similar color palette and 'look' at a friend's house... by growing a vigorous purple jackmanni clematis through an established hedge of golden euonymous.

As YOU look through these pictures of 

her garden (read more about ideas I have stolen from her here)

please feel free to disect them (despite their poor quality), deconstruct them, analyze their textures,

use of form and color and plant selection...

In other words...

 be selfish; what's in it for YOUR garden. 

  (I haven't grown borage in years. Seeing it here, makes me want to plant again.)

  For mere pennies find a collection of her books on Amazon here

J'adore this trellising!

 Any guess what I am going to try in my potager that's in the image above?  Do tell :)