Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kathleen Clemons Flower Photos

Nature photographer Kathleen Clemons' closeup images of flowers are dreamy and beautiful. She is  "known for her creative use of natural light and unique, stunning compositions."  

In her blog post titled "Work It," she gives hints on how she finds interesting points of view, including shooting the top of blooms as well as  from underneath the petals, and using vertical as well as horizontal  shots, especially against simple backgrounds. 

Her results are spectacular, so it pays to take a look. The entire post and photos can be found at:

A sampling of her flowers:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Photo Bee Blog

Britt Conley's PhotoGardenBee flower photography blog is a study of the wonder, structure, color, and beauty of flowers. For example, in the series of iris photos, below, she begins from an extreme-closeup of the flower bud, spent flower and internal structure, eventually pulling out so we can see a field of iris. 

The Photo Garden Bee loves flowers and photographing them, and it shows in her photos. She also sells fine art prints of her many photographs. Check out Britt's blog at The PhotoGardenBee.

Slender, pointed buds emerging from "worn out, cotton-like shawls"

Britt's favorite shot of the spent blossoms, calling them "hand dyed silk turbans"

Britt says, "One of the captivating things I love about irises are their petals. Like crossing two time signatures in music: a 4/4 background beat with a 3/4 topper, iris petals have three curled petals which crown theh four splayed beneath. It's one of those great oddities that makes them so wonderfully photogenic."

The garden full of irises

Daisy with curled petal against a blue background

Lobularia Maritima, alyssum

Apple blossoms from her "Wordless Wednesday" shots

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Amaryllis in December

Amaryllis, from the genus Hippeastrum of the family Amaryllidaceae, are the glorious lily-like flowers that grow indoors during the long months of winter. They grow so rapidly and the blooms are so huge and colorful that they help us pass the time until we can actually get out into the garden and dig in the dirt. Below, instructions on making a composite of amaryllis blooms in Photoshop.

"Apple Blossom" amaryllis blooming in my kitchen

Setup for photographing amaryllis, setting the plant on the floor, using black poster board as a background with a lamp on top of a dresser for the light source. Take pictures from different angles for this composite.

After taking your photos, import two of the best into Photoshop. 

The image above, will be the flower that appears smaller, behind another brighter image. Double-click on the "Background" layer in order to unlock it.

Make a new layer and pull it below the original layer.

Go to Image/Canvas size, or Alt+Ctrl+C, and enter width and height sizes double what is already there.

Select the empty bottom layer and fill with black. Alt+Backspace will fill it with the foreground color in your toolbar

Background filled with black

Now work on the second photo. 

Unlock, add a new layer, and drag the new layer below the original layer. 

Delete the background for the flower layer using your favorite method.

Place the images beside each other. Drag the deleted-background image onto the black-background image.

You should have two image layers above a black background.

Go to CTRL+T on the selected top layer to transform it to the size you want. Hold down the Shift key while you transform in order to keep the proportions constant.

While on this top layer, apply the Lighten blend mode in the layers palette

Now select the middle layer, with your background image

CTRL+T transform this image to the size you want. You may want to adjust sizes and positions, including rotating images slightly, until you have the placement you want. Crop to the final size.

Final image of composite Amaryllis blossoms

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Herbs in the Flower Garden

Although herbs are not grown primarily for their flowers, they have an important place in my garden. I have moved them to the front border because they are not only more convenient for when I need to snip rosemary for a roast chicken recipe, they are beautiful plants in their own right, with interesting foliage in varying shades of gray-green to lime green.

Silver-edged Horehound of the mint family, Marrubium Rotundifolium, with soft woolly leaves edged in white. I haven't tried this in cough drops yet.

Ornamental oregano--of no use in the kitchen and without much scent--the surpassingly beautiful Origanum Kent's Beauty. An enchanting plant of unusual color, with leaves the color of eucalyptus, and these fairy-like tiny lavender blossoms peeking out from between the pale mint-green bracts frosted with pink at the tips.

Regular oregano is easy to grow and spreads wildly.

I have already mentioned the robustness of Melissa Officinalis, the ever-enlarging Lemon Balm. It is best not to see it ever in bloom, in case it goes to seed. Meanwhile, when crushed, the leaves smell wonderfully of . . .  lemon.

Blooming sage plant. Large, velvety leaves make a nice mounded woody-stemmed plant, with these lavender flowers to surprise you in late spring. Sage is an herb flavor that can be easily overdone, since a little goes a long way. 

To the lower right of the picture grows tarragon, a hardy plant with narrow, slippery, yellow-green leaves redolent of licorice, lemon, and basil. It is often used to infuse vinegar. The plant itself has long since shot up, branched out, and made its presence known.

Blue-gray rosemary is an attractive, woody-stemmed plant that may return next spring if it doesn't get much below zero.  The leaves are easy to harvest and dry to add to savory soups and stews and roasts.

One should never let a peppermint plant bloom like this, unless one wants lots and lots of little peppermint plants.

Ahhhh, lavender. One can never have too many of them. Nice looking, large and imposing upright plants with gray-green, felted narrow leaves, with a long blooming season of these spiky blooms. This is the scent that heals and revives. There are many varieties of lavender, with subtle variations in color--mostly whites, pinks, and the purple/lavenders--and variations in scents. One of my plants smells much more definitely of menthol than the others.

Blooming thyme, nestled between the sage and marjoram.. Thyme is one of the freshest and sweetest of scents, and the plants, low growing and well-behaved, are nearly evergreen. They come in a number of irresistible varieties. I cut thyme for cooking well into the winter. 

While sage is also a well-behaved plant, if large when full grown, beware the marjoram when it flowers. It is a major reseeder.

Echinacea is an herb, but more importantly, a gorgeous, if coarse-leaved, flowering plant. A number of them are wonderfully fragrant. Echinacea like plenty of sun, but are not drought resistant, so make sure they do not dry out. This is the Sundown variety, blooming next to a Little Lamb hydrangea.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ground Covers

Ground covers can include a number of unexpected plants, including flowering gems that spread and spread, plants with variegated foliage, shade plants, sun loving plants, and tight mats of impenetrable green.

Pulmonaria, the lungwort Raspberry Splash. One of the very first to bloom, with these spotted leaves that persist all year after the brightly colored flowers fade. These reliably set seed and spread themselves around under the trees, providing interest wherever they are.

Lamium, another early bloomer, also called by the depressing name of Dead Nettle. These come in many varieties of pink, purple and white, with variegated foliage that spreads rapidly in shady situations, greeting the spring with cheerful spikes of color. 

The chalk-white iberis Candytuft. This is nearly evergreen for me. After the flowers fade in the spring, the dark green foliage fills in nicely between the roses.

Convallaria majalis, the Lily of the Valley,  scents the deep shade garden under the trees in late spring. These form impenetrable ropy-rooted colonies that crowd everything else out, but all is forgiven when they bloom. They do not tolerate sun well at all.

Two intertwined low-hugging plants, the blue-blooming veronica repens--the creeping speedwell, and the pink-edged crawling sedum Tricolor. Sedum loves the sun, while I have had good luck with the creeping speedwell in sun and shade.

I included Lady's Mantle, alchemilla, because it does reseed generously, forming large round-leaved plants throughout the shade garden. The blooms are uninspiring yellow green, but the green mounds of leaves are welcome under the trees.

 The everbearing strawberries have escaped from the raised beds and are invading my filtered shade borders, to the point that they are becoming rather a pest as a ground cover. In spite of the fact that they do produce strawberries. They seem to think they are border flowers and do much better, in fact, than they do in the raised beds.

Periwinkle will grow anywhere there is shade and water, so watch out. This plant has spread and spread, filling in under the trees, providing this dependable blue color in swaths each spring. 

Saponaria, the wandering soapwort. I have given up on this plant, letting it appear, grow, drape across logs and rocks in this amazing way, bloom, and then vanish, only to reappear somewhere else, with a slight variation in the pink color.

Anacyclus of the Aster family. This is Silver Kisses, the little white daisy petals lined with red, complete with ferny foliage. The plant itself doesn't live long, but if encouraged it will reseed. It is very nice at the front of the border.

I planted one plant of the herb Sweet Woodruff, galium odoratum, and now it is growing all around my iris and peonies and tulips in the morning sun. It blooms these tiny white crosses in spring, and the crisp yellow green-foliage romps happily all summer.


I love this plant. Cymbalaria, the Ivy-Leaved Toadflax or Kenilworth Ivy. Five round-lobed leaves with these delicate purple-lavender blossoms. Don't be fooled, these plants are quite hardy and put up with a lot. This is one of the best for filling in the soil in pots, since the leaves and flowers hang over the edge so nicely. They also spread here and there, never unwanted or out of control

Of course, white alyssum does wonders for the front of the border, along with verbena, one of my personal favorites for pots. Here, a species-type purple verbena pops up among the sweet alyssum.

One of the worst of the unwanted ground covers--Creeping Jenny. This chartreuse variety is Golden Moneywort "Aurea." Don't plant it unless you want everything surrounded, invaded, and crowded out by chartreuse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Plants that Reseed

When the conditions are right, plants that set seeds unimpeded can replicate themselves by way of breezes, birds, and the intentional flinging of masses of tiny seeds by bursting seed pods. Many of these plants are welcome, filling in empty spots and forming sturdy plants you can share with fellow gardeners. 

But often such plants make pests of themselves. We set out to deadhead spent flowers before they form seed pods, but it doesn't always happen on time. 

Below, a by-no-means comprehensive list of some of the more beautiful re-seeders in my garden:

The early spring anemone silvestris, which forms a puffy seedball that blows about in the breeze under the shade of the trees until the seeds drop on moist soil and start over again. Accompanying the anemones are violets, another prolific reseeder.

The dog-violet, one of the most aggressive of all reseeders. These will form hardy clumps that are difficult to dislodge from the soil. They will tolerate a lawn mower going over the top of them, which limits the size of the plants. It's kind of nice to have violets in the lawn, if you are not a lawn purist.

Many varieties of columbine will readily reseed themselves. I have found columbines in all parts of the shadier spots in my garden. I usually love them enough to not mind. In the picture above, a compact, upright variety of columbine has reseeded itself among the heuchera and Lady's Mantle.

The pink Missouri primrose may need encouragement if things get too crowded.

 Prairie Mallow pops up everywhere. Sometimes the spot of color is appreciated, sometimes it ends up looking like a wilted rag. Pull up when they are young, for when they are established, you will need a sharp shovel.

I never knew that the whirling butterflies plant, the Gaura, could be such a nuisance. I love these plants, but they are impossible to keep in check. These are impossible to photograph, too. Anything tall and slender with small flowers on a long stem presents a challenge to the photographer.

No one minds more plants like these showing up spontaneously. If you can get Phlox Paniculata to cross-pollinate with neighboring plants, you can have a steady stream of lovely color combinations.

  The herb garden seems especially prone to seeding itself beyond all control. It makes one wonder how the tidy old Victorian herb gardens kept so tidy--no doubt it took constant work by pruning clipper-wielding-servants. Above, the Matricaria chamomile of the Aster family shows up in the strangest places. I love the fluffy little white blooms, but then they dry and turn dirty brown and set seeds, all of them fertile.

This is Melissa Officinalis, the Lemon Balm. This has invaded sunny parts of the yard front and back. Don't let this plant loose, no matter how much you love the lemon scent.

Chives, another innocent looking Master of the Universe. As long as you like the smell of onion, you won't mind letting these papery globes of lilac-pink turn into tiny little black seeds, all of which fly in all directions, and all of which germinate.

Do not, under any circumstances, grow one of the most aggressive and ultimately unwanted of all herbs, (other than Borage or Horseradish, but that is another story,) spearmint or peppermint (not so much the chocolate mint, which is more restrained) in anything but a deep bucket. Even the bucket spills plants over the side, all of which seed and germinate, or the roots grow out of the holes in the bottom. Chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita subspecies citrata) by the way, smells exactly like that. Irresistible. Which is why we keep growing mints.

Flat leaf parsley. This plant looks good all season and covers up bare spots. You can go out with scissors and decimate it regularly. It grows back.

Hardy blue salvia.  Its propensity to spread itself in sunny areas should not have been a surprise to me. Since it is not outrageously aggressive, and since I love the spiky blue over a long bloom season, I often let it stay. I only wish my white salvia would be so generous.

Pastel yarrow, the achillea milllefolium, another plant from the Aster family, is like the blue salvia--fairly tidy all season, giving spots of color where it will blend nicely.

Volunteer goldenrod. Vast potential for reseeding. I haven't gotten tired of these yet. Maybe next year.

White annual alyssum is one of the best established recurring annuals, forming a sprawling, ever-blooming, fragrant and dependable front-of-the-border plant. The lavender blue perennial aster can get rambunctious in the right circumstances, but is easy to pull up, the colors are lovely, the foliage and plant are nice-looking, and everyone wants a piece of it.