27 August 2009

Photography and photoshop

Earlier this week I guest posted at Garden Rant about altered and enhanced images in catalogs, and got a lot of really interesting comments that got me thinking.
First, many people pointed out that any image is always an approximation of the real thing, and though image editing tools can be used to alter and enhance an image, they are also used to make images more true to life. Which is an excellent point -- my request that they "just STOP" doesn't really address the complexity of the problem.
Following up on that, a comment by Sysiphus's Gardener hit the nail on the head: What we need are standards.
I don't write or photograph catalogs, but I do blog, so I thought I'd come up with some rules to blog by.

The Three Laws of Plant Photos:

1. Correct, never enhance.
Only use image editing software to make the plants look accurate, not better. Check your finished image against the real thing to make sure you haven't succumbed to the urge to enhance.

2. Show us everything.
Don't post plant closeups without also showing the whole plant -- unless there is an overriding reason only the closeup is relevant, ie, disease symptoms on a leaf or a tiny detail of a flower you never noticed before.

3. Talk about it.
Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but if a photo comes out looking better or worse, redder or bluer than the real thing, a little text goes a long way.

What do you think? Does that cover it?

I'm going to try to blog by those rules. Though I admit weening myself off closeups might be hard -- they are so easy and always look great. But this will challenge me as a photographer (if I win the bidding on the camera I'm trying to buy on ebay, that is.)

Guest ranting at Garden Rant

Check out my guest post on garden rant here

26 August 2009

Hits and Misses

Every year I try a few new plants. Or, more usually, not a few, but an excessive orgy of new plants and around this time of year I start planning my fall planting season and deciding what to rip out, what to keep, and what to plant lots and lots more of.
Here are my hits and misses of the year:

Hit of the year: Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)
These are spectacular! I grew them from seed (they have big seeds, quick germination and were super easy) started indoors when I did my tomatoes and they have looked stellar all season. The huge silvery jagged leaves seem to look great with everything, especially the dark foliage plants I love. Even my mother-in-law, who is generally skeptical of anything more unusual than roses, lilies, and snapdragons, loves it! We'll see if it overwinters. References I've seen call it hardy to zone 7, but a friend reports it being a fairly reliable perennial in zone 6. I'm hoping it makes it here in zone 5! Regardless, I'll be growing a lot more from seed next year.

Miss of the year: xPardancanda 'Sangria'
I love the idea of this plant -- it is a crazy hybrid between two different genera (Pardanopsis and Belamcanda) and images of the flowers show a drool-inducing sophisticated mix of purple and gold. Though the flowers really are the color you see in the picture, sadly they are tiny, last only a day, and hardly show up in the garden. I'm obsessive about checking out what is going on in the garden, walking through multiple times a day to see what's growing and it had been flowering for days before I even noticed. I might keep one around back in my nursery bed to see if it improves with age, but the rest are headed to the compost pile.

What were your hits and misses for the summer?

25 August 2009

Lowes succulents don't suck -- who would have thought?

I finally have myself a lovely little Aeonium 'Zwartkop'I've drooled over this Dr. Suess-esque black leaved succulent in botanic gardens and in photos of gardens from warmer climes, now finally I have one (well, two) of my own!
And I got it at Lowes.
Who would have thought? Lowes has an astonishing selection of incredibly cool, very inexpensive tropical succulents worthy of a specialty nursery! I was clued in by my former boss/mentor at the Ohio State University Learning Gardens who is going through a 'succulent phase' and told me Lowes was the place to get them. I figured it was just an anomaly of the Lowes she frequents in Columbus, but back home in Lansing, out purchasing supplies to refinished my wood floors I poked through the otherwise completely lack-luster selection of plants and found a cart loaded with glorious little succulents! Black aeonium, blue echeveria with leaves edged in pink, fuzzy kalanchoe...

They are all tender, of course, but I've never had trouble overwintering succulents in the house. I'm excited to play with them all in planting up my containers next year!
I wonder, though, how much this little discovery is going to add to the cost of finishing my fixer-upper house... now every trip to Lowes to get paint or trim now also involves a couple little pots of bizarre, beautiful succulents.

16 August 2009

Moss gardening

Ever since I read George Schenk's gorgeously photographed and charmingly written book Moss Gardening I've been itching to try it. The book is full lovely photographs of lush gardens carpeted with rich green tapestries of moss. And I mean tapestry -- each stretch of moss is richly interwoven with a thousand different shades of green as different species of moss (and sometimes lichen) grow together.
So, I'm trying it. In a shady part of the yard where grass doesn't much want to grow anyway, I just ripped out an exceptinally ugly raised bed left by the previous owner, and in the resulting patch of bare soil, I carefully transplated little chunks of moss gathered from around the yard (and even the old singles from the roof I'm replacing) and placed them about 6 inches apart on the bare soil. It looks rather sad at the moment (I still haven't replaced my camera so you'll have to use your imagination) but hopefully with regular watering and time they'll grow together and form a lovely carpet. If it works, I plan to round up all the grass in the side yard and replace it all with moss.

11 August 2009

Back to the blog

I've been taking time off from the blog this spring and summer -- too much going on with school, work, my new house and new gardens. Not to mention, my camera died and I haven't replaced it yet. But things are calming down, I'm getting a new camera, and I'm going to try and get into the habit of posting regularly again. Stay tuned!